The Ontario College of Family Physicians (OCFP) is launching a campaign to raise awareness of the critical issues facing the province’s healthcare system. Entitled “Life Without a Doctor,” it highlights the growing shortage of family doctors in Ontario and proposes solutions in advance of the 2022 Provincial Election.
COVID-19 has highlighted the importance of Ontarians having access to high-quality and comprehensive health care — and that begins with access to a family doctor, says the OCFP. According to Statistics Canada, 1.3 million Ontarians say they do not have a family doctor, and the crisis will continue to worsen as a large portion of those doctors approach retirement and COVID-related backlogs continue to strain the system.
“Without action, Ontario’s increasing family doctor shortage is a deeply concerning trend that will continue to limit our ability to meet the needs of our province’s growing and aging population,” said OCFP President, Dr. Elizabeth Muggah. “The COVID-19 pandemic forced all of us to confront the challenges facing our healthcare system. We know that having access to a regular family doctor means lower hospitalization rates, improved health outcomes and a healthcare system that is better able to sustain itself. It’s important we learn the lessons of the pandemic and ensure that every Ontarian has a family doctor.
During the 2022 provincial election, the OCFP is calling on all of Ontario’s political parties to commit to:
- Ensuring every Ontarian has a family doctor alongside a team so patients can get the help they need faster.
- Creating more accessible care by increasing the time that family doctors can spend providing direct patient care.
- Ensuring every Ontarian has a family doctor by recruiting and retaining more family doctors within the province.
The OCFP has identified the solutions needed to help guide policy development, as outlined on LifeWithoutADoctor.ca. Among them, more equitable access to team-based resources for patients, a robust Health Human Resources Plan, reviewing and expanding existing incentives to practice in underserved communities, and streamlining administrative processes. Currently, the average family doctor faces a mounting administrative burden that is reducing direct patient care.
“We know that the best healthcare systems in the world are those where everyone has a family doctor. Unfortunately, 1.3 million Ontarians say they are living life without a family doctor — with Ontarians living in rural or northern communities and vulnerable populations being most impacted. While we know that this is a crisis, there is hope, and there are solutions,” says Kimberly Moran, CEO of the OCFP.
The OCFP and its members are asking all parties to make the necessary commitments in their 2022 election platforms to implement these solutions, as an important step forward in delivering more equitable and accessible care to Ontarians.
The OCFP represents over 15,000 family doctors who support Ontarians in both urban and rural communities in our province.
- According to the latest data from Statistics Canada, 1.3 million Ontarians say they do not have a family physician.
- For Northern Ontario, where the situation is especially dire, the region is in need of 100 doctors and 130 specialists.
- Across the province, patients are feeling the impact of an increasing family physician shortage as fewer medical graduates are choosing family medicine, more family doctors are retiring each year, and more doctors are feeling burnout from the pandemic:
- 2-in-3 family doctors are experiencing moderate to severe burnout.
- 1-in-4 family doctors experiencing high or severe burnout.
- 1-in-5 family doctors plan to retire within the next 5 years.
- 40% of Ontario doctors surveyed said the pandemic has caused them to consider retiring earlier.
- Compared globally and nationally, Ontario is lagging behind in doctor-to-population ratio. Compared to other countries, Canada ranks 23rd out of 32 OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development) countries in doctor-to-population ratio.
- Canada has 2.78 physicians for every 1,000 people.
- Ontario has 2.32 physicians for every 1,000 people.
- The only provinces with a lower ratio than Ontario are Manitoba (2.16 / 1,000), Saskatchewan (2.12 / 1,000) and P.E.I (2.04 / 1,000).
- Jurisdictions with a greater proportion of family physicians to population are associated with lower patient mortality; unattached patients have worse health outcomes and higher health costs than those with a regular family doctor.
Discover More: Learn how virtual pharmacies sponsored by TELUS are helping seniors in a time of need.