More Than 2.2 Million Ontarians Left Without a Family Doctor
New research shows that 2.2 million Ontarians are currently without a family doctor – a significant rise from the previously reported 1.8 million.
“Every single Ontarian who wants a family doctor should have one. It’s a basic right that each of us should be able to access a family doctor,” said OCFP President Dr. Mekalai Kumanan. “But we have more than 2 million people from across all corners of the province who do not have access to a regular family doctor.”
New research from INSPIRE Primary Health Care was conducted to include data between March 2020 and March 2022. The data shows that nearly 15 per cent the population is now without access to a regular family doctor. While the shortage is impacting people across the province, those who are vulnerable, including newcomers and those with the lowest incomes are even less likely to have a family doctor.
When Ontarians don’t have a family doctor, it can lead to more serious health problems and places further pressures on other areas of our overworked healthcare system, including hospitals, emergency departments and long-term care homes.
While Ontario needs to bring more family doctors into the profession, there are things we can do now to address the issue, including ensuring practicing family doctors have the right supports so that they can spend more time seeing patients.
Following extensive consultation with family doctors from across the province, the OCFP developed the policy paper, Solutions for Today: Ensuring Every Ontarian Has Access to a Family Physician. Recommendations include:
- Enable family doctors to take on more patients, and to see them faster, by hiring healthcare team members who can provide family doctors with the support they need to free up more time for patients. Right now, 75 per cent of family doctors and their patients in Ontario do not have access to this kind of team support.
- Increase the time that family doctors spend directly with patients by improving outdated digital systems that will ease the overwhelming administrative burden family doctors are experiencing. Currently, family doctors face administrative burdens that can take up to 19 hours a week.
- Ensure Ontarians in the North, rural areas and others in the most under-served populations have equitable access to family physicians by encouraging family physicians to practice in high needs/low access communities.
“We can see that Ontarians are suffering from inequitable access to family doctors and this government has the ability to change the course of healthcare for millions of Ontarians,” said Kimberly Moran, CEO, OCFP. “The recent announcement to invest in 18 new teams is certainly a step in the right direction, but it’s clear that we need multiple solutions if we are going to make lasting and meaningful change – not just for the Ontarians who can access these family medicine teams, but for all Ontarians.”
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About the Ontario College of Family Physicians
The OCFP represents more than 15,000 family doctors who support Ontarians in both urban and rural communities in our province. Our members have direct insight into the unique healthcare needs of Ontario’s varying populations. With their guidance, and together with our family physician members, the OCFP has developed three overarching solutions for Ontario parties to implement post-election that will increase access to care for more Ontarians.
Read INSPIRE Research Findings (April 2023) in PDF format.
Manager, Communications, OCFP