Family doctors continue to experience surge in children with respiratory illness
Ontario’s family doctors are reporting a significant surge in patients, especially children, experiencing respiratory illness, including common cold viruses, influenza and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), as well as COVID.
As children’s hospitals and pediatric wards experience overwhelming demand, the Ontario College of Family Physicians (OCFP) is encouraging all family doctors from across the province to continue to prioritize seeing children with respiratory illness in-person, when needed.
The OCFP acknowledges and thanks family doctors across Ontario for their dedication and service. In addition to regular clinics, many family doctors have added hours in evenings and weekend clinics, are staffing provincial COVID assessment centres and doing shifts in hospitals and emergency departments.
Here are a few examples that highlight the tremendous work of family doctors going above and beyond at this very difficult time:
- One Cambridge family doctor says her Family Health Team has additional evening and weekend clinics – all are full or almost full.
- One clinic in Brampton has all 19 family doctors working back-to-back appointments. They’ve set up a secondary on-call doctor to try and meet demand.
- Despite doubling the hours for a weekend after-hours clinic in Ottawa, all weekend spots were filled, mostly with children suffering from respiratory illnesses.
- In Guelph, one family doctor shared that she had been seeing patients during her scheduled vacation days.
- A family doctor in Toronto reported up to 30 patients booked into a three-hour emergency window in his clinic.
- One family doctor in Dufferin was sick with COVID symptoms, including fever, and continued to support her clinic by seeing patients virtually.
This current surge of respiratory illnesses in Ontario is happening while family doctors continue to face COVID-related backlogs in care and cancer screenings, more complex patient issues and a shortage that has left 1.8 million Ontarians without a family doctor.
“We must work to ensure Ontarians are getting the right care from the right person at the right time,” said Dr. Mekalai Kumanan, President, Ontario College of Family Physicians. “One way to do this is to ensure that family doctors are supported by teams that may include social workers, nurses and administrative support staff so that patients can get the help they need faster.”
- To support Ontario’s parents to care for sick children, the Ontario College of Family Physicians has created a resource with tips to help parents manage symptoms at home, know when to call their family doctor or go to the emergency department.
- To help ensure family doctors, their staff and other vulnerable patients remain healthy, Ontarians are urged to wear a mask during in-person appointments. It is particularly important that patients keep their masks on, even when waiting alone in an exam room.
- Patients are asked for their understanding that family doctors and their staff are dealing with extraordinary volumes right now and this may mean longer-than-usual wait times for some routine, non-urgent care (e.g. well child visits not associated with immunization, follow up for chronic disease that is stable).
- Ontarians are encouraged to keep doing the things we know will help minimize the chances of serious illness and community spread; wear a mask, wash your hands, stay home when you are sick, make sure your COVID booster is up to date and get your flu shot.
Manager, Communications, OCFP