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Without urgent action, nearly 1 million in Toronto could be without a family doctor by 2026 

March 5, 2024

Ontario College of Family Physicians calling for urgent supports for family doctors and patients 

Having a family doctor in Ontario shouldn’t be a luxury – it is a necessity. And yet, new data shows more than 516,000 Torontonians are already without a family doctor. The Ontario College of Family Physicians forecasts that number to grow to nearly a million by 2026.  

“Family medicine is under enormous strain right now due to system-wide issues. However, we believe it’s possible to turn this crisis around and let family doctors get back to what they most want, which is to be there for their patients,” said Dr. Mekalai Kumanan, President, Ontario College of Family Physicians. “By supporting family doctors now, we can ensure that Ontarians have access to the kind of quality care they expect for years to come.” 

There are several factors contributing to the shortage, including challenges in retaining family doctors. Many report they are being driven from the profession due to system-wide issues including overwhelming administrative burden, lack of team supports and compensation that has not kept pace with inflation.  

In a survey, 65 per cent of family doctors said they plan to leave or change their practice in the next five years. Data shows a clear downward trend in family doctors choosing to work in comprehensive family medicine, providing the full spectrum of support that Ontarians depend on. Other factors driving the shortage include the number of family doctors expected to retire, the number of family medicine graduates entering the profession and expected population growth in Ontario.  

Across Ontario, these pressing factors have led to 2.3 million being left without a family doctor. The Ontario College of Family Physicians expects that number to grow to 4.4 million by 2026.  

“Right now, too many people in our city are being left behind. When people don’t have access to a family doctor, they aren’t getting the care that they need,” said Dr. Tara Kiran, family physician and researcher at St. Michael’s Hospital and the University of Toronto. “We need to retain the family doctors we have now and recruit doctors of the future. Without meaningful change, we will see the health of people and our communities deteriorate.” 

The Ontario College of Family Physicians is calling on the Ontario Government to provide urgent support to family doctors and patients by: 

  • Cutting the administrative burden: Currently, family doctors in Ontario are spending up to 19 hours a week – that’s more than two full workdays – on administrative work. Less paperwork for family doctors means more time to spend with patients. To address this, Ontario must work on supporting better, more efficient ways of doing things such as eliminating employer mandated sick notes and modernizing outdated referrals systems.   
  • Providing team support: More team support alongside family doctors means better access to primary care for Ontarians. A team of health care professionals working together with a family doctor ensures patients can receive the care they need at the right time from the most appropriate health care provider – all under one roof.  
    • Data shows that across Ontario, nearly 75 per cent of patients do not have access to a family doctor who is supported by a team. There is significant variation across the province in the distribution of team-based primary care. In the Greater Toronto Area (GTA), fewer people have access to family doctors who are supported by teams, with some areas in the GTA, including Scarborough, as low as six per cent.  
  • Ensuring fair compensation: Compensation has not kept pace with inflation and does not reflect the complex care they provide. Family doctors, who run their clinics like a small business, are struggling to keep up with the rising costs associated with keeping their clinics open.   

“There have been some positive signals from government, such as recent funding for some teams and a commitment to address the admin burden,” said Dr. Kumanan. “But it’s time for Ontario to act urgently and provide family doctors with the support they need to continue caring for Ontarians. It is imperative that family doctors have the support they need to carry out their vital work.” 


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 and other partners, the OCFP has developed overarching solutions that will increase access to care for more Ontarians.   

Media Contact   

Jay Scull  
Manager, Communications, OCFP   

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