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News release
May 31, 2023

Ontario’s doctors say primary care is in crisis, burnout at record levels

TORONTO, May 31, 2023 — Ontario’s doctors say that primary care is in crisis and they are committed to working with the government and others over the coming months to find solutions that will lead to better patient care.

Fixing the primary care crisis is one of three immediate priorities for strengthening the health-care system identified by the Ontario Medical Association following extensive consultations with physicians, the public and stakeholders, including the OMA’s Section on General and Family Practice.

The other two priorities are alleviating the crushing administrative burden, one of the leading causes of physician burnout, and expanding home- and community-based care.

The OMA sounded the alarm around primary care at a media briefing today when it also released a progress report on its 18-month-old Prescription for Ontario: Doctors’ 5-Point Plan for Better Health Care. The Prescription Progress Report 2023 finds the provincial government has taken some action on 51 of the OMA’s 87 recommendations for improving the health-care system, an indication the government is listening to physicians.

However, the OMA says more needs to be done.

The OMA believes that every Ontarian, no matter where they live, should have access to an interprofessional team of primary care providers led by a family doctor.

“Medicine is like a house and family medicine is the foundation,” said OMA President Dr. Andrew Park. “If we don’t fix our foundation, everything else crumbles. Family doctors provide comprehensive cradle-to-grave preventive care and treatment for their patients, and they are the gateway to the rest of the health-care system if you need a diagnostic test or a referral to a specialist.”

The statistics around family medicine are alarming:

  • 2.2 million Ontarians do not have a family doctor, according to new research by the INSPIRE PHC research group
  • This number will likely grow. Four in 10 physicians of all specialties surveyed by the OMA said they were considering retiring over the next five years
  • New data released today by the Ontario College of Family Physicians shows two-thirds of family physicians are planning to make a change to their practice model, reduce their hours or retire in the next five years
  • Data suggests medical students aren’t interested in becoming family doctors. Across Canada, more than 100 residency spots in family medicine went unfilled for 2023. No other specialty had more than two spots left unfilled
  • Physicians are reporting record levels of burnout. One of the main causes is the crushing administrative burden
  • Family doctors surveyed by the OCFP say they spend 19.1 hours a week on documentation and other administrative work

The OMA has been encouraged by the government’s willingness to reduce the number of forms and other red tape contributing to the administrative burden and burnout. But forms are just one part of the problem.

Electronic medical records need to be integrated. In Ontario, doctors, hospitals, labs, pharmacists and home- and community-care systems all use different digital medical records systems, which do not speak to one another.

The OMA recommends the creation of a centralized intake and referral system, managed by Ontario Health, to ensure equitable and timely access to diagnostic, specialty and surgical care, and to reduce the high administrative burden of the referrals process.

We also need to improve and expand home and community care, including long-term care and hospice care, ensuring they are co-ordinated and integrated into the health-care system.

High-quality home and community care reduces unnecessary emergency department visits and hospital admissions, supports people at home, reduces wait times and avoids hundreds of millions of dollars in costs to the system each year.

About the OMA

The Ontario Medical Association represents Ontario’s 43,000-plus physicians, medical students and retired physicians, advocating for and supporting doctors while strengthening the leadership role of doctors in caring for patients. Our vision is to be the trusted voice in transforming Ontario’s health-care system.

For more information, please contact:

Leslie Shepherd
Director, Earned and Social Media
Ontario Medical Association