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OCFP responds to The Ontario Science Table final report

October 3, 2022

Thank you to Ontario’s Science Table for the guidance the table has provided through the pandemic, and for focusing on primary care for its final report. We acknowledge the hard work of the many family doctors who contributed to the research for this report, work that was led by Dr. Danielle Martin, Chair of UofT’s Department of Family and Community Medicine.

The Science Table report, released today, acknowledges the important role of family doctors in the pandemic – and how important this role will be going forward.

From a rapid transition to virtual care at the request of government, to supporting vaccination and Covid assessment centres to providing Covid treatments – all the while family doctors have continued to care for their patients.

Looking ahead, the Science Table notes that the role of family doctors will be especially important given backlogs in care, long waits for specialty care and diagnostics, a rise in mental illness and addictions and providing care to patients with Long Covid.

The research shows that health systems with strong primary care achieve better health outcomes and improved health equity at lower cost. It further notes that continuity of care with a primary care professional or team leads to improved access, better preventive care, decreased utilization, decreased health care costs, improved health, decreased mortality and improved patient satisfaction.

Yet, in Ontario, our health system is threatened by an ever-growing shortage of family doctors. Using data shared in the Science Table report, the OCFP forecasts that 1-in-5 Ontarians will be without a family doctor in the next three years. The reasons for the family doctor shortage are clear: many are retiring and fewer are choosing the profession. Ontarians are aging, and as they do, patients need more complex health support and more time with family doctors.

Family doctors want and need more time with their patients, however, the current system is leaving the majority of family doctors to manage significant backlogs of care and burnout without team support. That is why it is key to support family doctors by ensuring they work with teams of nurses, nurse practitioners, social workers, physiotherapists and other health workers. Non-clinical support could also help ease the significant administrative burden that family doctors are facing.

The Science Table report recognizes that two years of ongoing COVID-19 response has changed the practice and capacity of primary care in Ontario. We agree. Things have changed and we need to do things differently.

The way forward is to ensure Ontarians have access to teams of health and administrative professionals, anchored by a family doctor.

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