New Data Shows 415,000 in Toronto Without a Family Doctor
The Ontario College of Family Physicians has Solutions
The number of people without a family doctor in Toronto has ballooned to at least 415,000 suggesting that at least 72,000 people lost their family doctor between March 2020 and March 2022. The new data shows that those in the city with the lowest incomes are especially impacted.
The latest data from INSPIRE Primary Health Care reflects the crisis being felt across the province. There are 2.2 million Ontarians without a family doctor – a significant rise from the previously reported 1.8 million in 2020.
“Now is the time for real change in Ontario,” said Dr. Mekalai Kumanan, President, Ontario College of Family Physicians (OCFP). “Supporting family doctors in practice will allow them to focus on the high-quality care they provide to their patients. This can be accomplished by expanding team-based care and minimizing the administrative tasks that family doctors currently face.”
One of the most concerning trends in the Toronto data is that a higher proportion of individuals with the lowest incomes are without a family doctor compared to those with high incomes. At least 120,700 people with the lowest incomes do not have a family doctor. These disparities are most pronounced in the west end, north of the city core and in Scarborough.
Other vulnerable Torontonians impacted include at least 203,000 who live in racialized neighbourhoods, 54,000 who suffer from mental illness, and 30,000 who live with diabetes.
The data includes all those the Ontario government has assigned to the eight Ontario Health Teams within Toronto, with the exception of babies born or people who moved to the city after 2019. Because of this, researchers believe these stats to be underestimated. INSPIRE Primary Health Care notes that this data is not posted on its website yet and will be released shortly.
On average, a family doctor takes on 1,200 patients – and many take on far more. In this case, Toronto would need at least 385 new family doctors who solely focus on family medicine to meet the current demand. “Without action, it isn’t possible to reach this target,” said Dr. Kumanan. “On top of the current shortage, many family doctors are approaching retirement. It is critical that we take steps to support family doctors in practice.”
OCFP recommends the following solutions to ensure more Ontarians can access a family doctor:
- 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.
“We can see that in Toronto, and across Ontario, people 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 government announcement to invest in 18 new teams is a step in the right direction, and it’s clear that we need multiple solutions if we are going to make lasting and meaningful change. The OCFP looks forward to continuing to work with the Ontario government on these important issues.”
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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