Ontario College of Family Physicians Calls for Immediate Support for Family Doctors
New data shows decline in comprehensive family medicine, deepening the crisis
(TORONTO) October 12, 2023 — Urgent action is necessary in order to reverse a concerning trend that could see the province losing more family doctors, leaving even more Ontarians without the kind of care they need and want from a family doctor.
“The shortage of family doctors is one of the biggest issues facing our healthcare system,” said Dr. Mekalai Kumanan, President, Ontario College of Family Physicians. “To address this crisis, we need to start by ensuring family doctors have the support they require to keep doing the important work that they do for their patients. Otherwise, we will continue to lose family doctors and see fewer medical students choose this profession.”
New data by INSPIRE Primary Health Care 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. In 2008, 77 per cent of family doctors in Ontario were spending the majority of their time providing this type of care, but as of 2022, the number has declined to 65 per cent.
“The other pattern we see is that the shift away from comprehensive family medicine is occurring across all family physician career stages. This includes mid-career and late-career family doctors,” said Dr. Kamila Premji, who led this new research with Inspire Primary Health Care.
Adding to the crisis, the number of medical school graduates choosing to pursue family medicine is the lowest it’s been in 15 years.
When there are fewer family doctors providing the full spectrum of care, it becomes even more difficult for Ontarians to find a family doctor. When patients don’t have a family doctor, it means that cancers may go undetected, people miss important vaccines, and more people turn to already overburdened emergency departments because they do not have anywhere else to go.
The Ontario College of Family Physicians is calling on the Ontario government to protect the health of Ontarians and support family physicians by implementing immediate solutions:
- Ensure all family doctors are supported by teams, which may include registered nurses, nurse practitioners, social workers, dietitians, and pharmacists. All Ontarians should have access to team-based care. We all need one door to a team of health care providers who know each patient, their family, and their health history.
- Ensure family doctors are able to spend time caring for patients—not tackling paperwork. On average, family doctors spend 19 hours a week on administrative tasks such as writing sick notes and filling out lengthy insurance forms. This administrative burden has resulted in 65 per cent of family doctors planning to change or leave their practice because they aren’t doing the work they need and want to do, which is seeing patients.
“It’s not too late to change course. We must act now to ensure Ontarians are able to get the best care possible from their family doctor. All Ontarians deserve a family doctor,” said Dr. Kumanan.
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.
INSPIRE-PHC is a network of primary care researchers, stakeholders, and knowledge users in Ontario. They are a leader in primary care research, providing data support and expertise for health policy in Ontario.
Director, Communications, OCFP