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New Survey Shows Full-Blown Crisis in Family Medicine

May 30, 2023

Urgent need to address red tape and administrative burden

New survey findings point to an urgent need for dramatic red tape and administrative reductions to provide immediate support to Ontario’s family doctors. Without quick action, Ontario could see an exodus of family doctors closing their clinics or reducing their hours, leaving fewer patients with access to the kind of comprehensive primary care that Ontarians value, need and deserve.

“Family doctors play an important role as the foundation of the healthcare system,” said Dr. Mekalai Kumanan, President, Ontario College of Family Physicians. “With 161,000 patient visits every day in Ontario, family doctors see more patients than any other healthcare professional. The Ontario College of Family Physicians, which represents more than 15,000 family doctors in Ontario, is calling for action that will provide immediate support to family doctors.”

Results from the survey, conducted on behalf of the Ontario College of Family Physicians, of more than 1,300 family doctors clearly show a full-blown crisis. An alarming number of family doctors – 65 per cent – are preparing to leave the profession or reduce hours in the next five years, reporting that they are overwhelmed with unnecessary administrative work and a lack of support.

Already, 2.2 million are without a family doctor. The most recent data also shows 1.7 million Ontarians have a family doctor aged 65 or older who are poised to retire. Adding to the crisis is a clear trend in medical students not choosing family medicine.

The survey, conducted in March/April on behalf of the Ontario College of Family Physicians, shows that family doctors are being driven from the profession because of unnecessary administrative work.

Family doctors report spending 19 hours a week on administrative tasks. Ninety-four per cent said they are overwhelmed with administrative work that takes up to 40 per cent of their time every week. This burden is already impacting patients’ access to care as some family doctors have had to reduce clinical hours.

“We can turn this around and create a functional system where family doctors can focus on direct patient care,” said Kimberly Moran, CEO, Ontario College of Family Physicians. “Our government has the ability to change the course of healthcare for millions of Ontarians. But there is no time to lose, and we must act quickly to provide immediate relief to family doctors.”

Family doctors recognize that some administrative work will always be necessary to support patients. However, there are better, more efficient ways of doing things. Tangible solutions that would provide immediate relief to family doctors, include:

  • Improve outdated digital systems. This includes making a specialist e-referral system available to all family doctors.
  • Provide simpler, shorter and more streamlined insurance, social program and benefit forms.
  • Standardize outgoing forms and referrals.
  • Hire healthcare team members who can provide family doctors with support. Right now, 75 per cent of family doctors and their patients in Ontario do not have access to this kind of team support.   

We care deeply about our patients, but we, unfortunately, face significant, system-wide challenges in our day-to-day work,” said Dr. Kumanan. “If we make changes now to reduce the administrative duties and surround family doctors with interprofessional supports, that will go a long way to keep family doctors in their clinics to provide ongoing care to our patients.”

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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.      

Media Contact    

Jay Scull    
Manager, Communications, OCFP   

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