Do you know what your doctor really gets paid?

Everyone knows, doctors make a lot of money …or do they? According to some surprising statistics, the average doctor's take-home pay in Ontario may not be as healthy as you think.

Doctors' compensation is often compared to that of teachers, public servants, factory workers or police officers. But unlike these employees of the government and the private sector, doctors are self-employed. That means they alone must pay the costs of setting up and maintaining their practice, purchase benefits such as life insurance, dental and extended health care, and fund their own pension plan.

Like other small businesses, the biggest expense in a doctor's practice is staff, which accounts for about 60% of total costs. Other expenses include rental of office space, furniture and equipment, insurance, utilities, property taxes, professional fees, licence and professional memberships.

According to the organization that represents doctors in the province, overhead costs for Ontario doctors are actually increasing faster than inflation. In its journal Ontario Medical Review, the Ontario Medical Association (OMA) compiled data from Statistics Canada that shows staff costs rising at three times the rate of consumer inflation since 2000. In fact, since 2003, the average weekly earnings of those employed in Ontario doctors' offices have ballooned by a whopping 75%.

Overall, the costs associated with self-employment take a huge bite out of a doctor's take-home pay.

Here's how it breaks down in Ontario:

• In 2009-10, the average doctor received $318,278 in payments from the province. (Source: Institute for Clinical Evaluative Sciences)

• He or she incurred $141,517 in overhead costs. (Source: PricewaterhouseCooper)

• That leaves $176,800 from which to purchase benefits, at an estimated value of 20-25% of gross income.

• After paying for overhead and benefits, the doctor's net income is equivalent to a “salary” of between $141,000 and $147,000. Put into perspective, this is less than the 2010 salaries of Premier Dalton McGuinty ($210K), Minister of Finance Dwight Duncan ($210K) and Minister of Health and Long-Term Care Deb Matthews ($166K).

No one asks teachers to pay for classroom space, or police officers to pay out-of-pocket for their guns or gas. It's worth thinking about when we consider what our doctors get paid, so we're really comparing apples to apples.

More information about doctor compensation in Ontario can be found online at www.oma.org

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Carol Ireland

Carol Ireland

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CENTURY 21 Millennium Inc., Brokerage*
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