Ontario Children Face Potential Health Risks Associated with Not Having a Family Doctor
The Ontario College of Family Physicians Shares Solutions
New research shows that 2.2 million Ontarians, including more than 360,000 children across the province, do not have a family doctor, which could result in young people missing important care in the early years of life.
“Every Ontarian deserves a family doctor. It’s unacceptable that anyone, especially babies and children, should not have equal access,” said Dr. Mekalai Kumanan, President, Ontario College Family Physicians (OCFP).
Of the more than 360,000 children impacted, 48,628 are under age 5. The situation is even more dire for youth, with 190,000 left without a family doctor. The research was conducted by INSPIRE Primary Health Care, and is based on data from March 2022.
Having a family doctor is important at all stages of our life, but it’s crucial for children, including newborns. Family doctors ensure newborns get early vaccinations against diseases like measles and mumps. They also screen babies for conditions that require early interventions, like autism.
As children grow, they need to receive vaccines at scheduled times between the ages of two months and six years old. It’s important that these are done in the primary care setting so that family doctors can ensure vaccine schedules are maintained and conduct wellness checks at the same time. Without a family doctor, important care can be missed, and children can suffer disastrous, long-term consequences.
“The challenge right now is that family doctors are already working beyond capacity, and most cannot take on new patients, which sadly, in some cases, includes children,” said Dr. Jobin Varughese, President-Elect, OCFP. “With impending retirements and a growing population, the situation will get worse unless urgent action is taken.
Increasing the number of family doctors in Ontario is important but will take time. One thing we can do right away to free up time for family doctors is to reduce the overwhelming administrative burden. Some family doctors spend as much as 19 hours a week on paperwork – time that could be better spent with patients. The second is to ensure doctors are supported by primary care teams, which could include nurses, parent educators and lactation consultants.
“We can see that all Ontarians, including children and youth, 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 announcement to invest in 18 new teams is certainly 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.”
Learn more about OCFP’s solutions. Solutions for Today: Ensuring Every Ontarian Has Access to a Family Physician.
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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