Ontario’s Crisis in Family Medicine Hits Eastern York Region and North Durham
The Ontario College of Family Physicians Has Solutions
As the number of people without a family doctor grows in Eastern York Region and North Durham, the Ontario College of Family Physicians is calling for urgent action to cut red tape and administrative burden. Without quick action, Ontario could further 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.
The number of people without a family doctor in Eastern York Region and North Durham has ballooned to almost 30,000 suggesting that more than 8,000 people lost their family doctor between March 2020 and March 2022, according to new data from INSPIRE Primary Health Care.
The data includes all those the Ontario government has assigned to the Eastern York Region and North Durham Ontario Health Team, with the exception of babies born or people who moved to the area after 2019. Because of this, researchers believe these stats to be underestimated. The latest data 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.
At the same time, the Ontario College of Family Physicians is sounding an alarm that this crisis will continue to worsen if quick action is not taken to provide urgent supports to family doctors. A recent survey of more than 1,300 family doctors in Ontario shows 65 per cent of family doctors 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.
The survey further shows 94 per cent of family doctors are overwhelmed with spending 19 hours a week on administrative tasks. Ninety-four per cent said they are overwhelmed with administrative work that that takes up to 40 per cent of their time every week. The administrative burden is already impacting patients’ access to care as some family doctors have had to reduce clinical hours.
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- Improve outdated digital systems.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 like scribes, administrative professionals and nurses 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.
“Now is the time for real change in Ontario. If we make changes 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,” Dr. Mekalai Kumanan, President, Ontario College of Family Physicians (OCFP).
“We can turn this around and create a functional system where family doctors can focus on direct patient care. 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,” Kimberly Moran, CEO, Ontario College of Family Physicians.
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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.
Manager, Communications, OCFP