Cracks in the foundation — time for alarm and urgency in supporting struggling family doctors
We need to have a conversation. It’s usually not good news when you hear this from your family doctor. This is no exception.(Mississauga, ON) The recent data release from the Commonwealth Fund survey of family physicians should be a jarring wake-up call to the perils facing family medicine and overall health care in Canada. Family doctors are frequently referred to as the foundation of health care in Canada (appropriate, as they provide 70 per cent of medical services in the country). But this foundation is crumbling: the cracks are widening and threatening a collapse of everything this foundation supports.
The Commonwealth Fund survey data is dispiriting at best and catastrophic at worst. Three in four physicians think medical care has gotten worse since the onset of COVID-19. Almost half of family physicians are burnt out or are burning out. Three in four report doing more work, while four in five say their earnings have either stagnated or decreased. These distressing figures underscore remarkably low satisfaction with a family doctor’s professional life. It is inconceivable that in the wake of a global pandemic that made heroes of health providers, family doctors find themselves in a situation like this, suffocating under an unmanageable administrative burden of frequently unpaid paperwork.
Patients are also suffering. Patients without a regular family physician face worse health outcomes and place increased strain on health care systems already at a breaking point. As described in the analysis produced by Ontario’s Institute for Evaluative Clinical Sciences:
“These demands included thousands of emergency department visits and thousands of medical departments and bed shortages. They were also highly likely to be associated with preventable suffering and sometimes irreversible clinical deterioration.”
ICES Investigative Report, 2008
By not urgently addressing the well-established concerns, governments across Canada are letting their constituents down as patients are left with worsening access to primary care. While significant federal funding has been announced, its support for front-line care providers is alarmingly lagging. If the public’s basic health care needs are to be met, governments must address this crisis facing family medicine now. Not tomorrow. Now. The solutions are there and waiting to be acted on. The CFPC’s recommendations are clearly outlined in Prescription for Primary Care and Family Practice Reform Policy Proposals.
The CFPC traditionally has worked on ensuring excellence in standards across training, certification, and a family doctor’s career. However, excellence can only take us so far; family doctors cannot succeed if bold transformational change is not taken at this time to support family doctors.
As the voice of family medicine in Canada, the CFPC is calling on all governments, health organizations, and patients to join us in recognizing the urgent crisis we are in. No more complacency. We need bold action—and investment—now, to transform the system into one that will give patients access and support the providers within it.
Family doctors do exceptional work every day caring for their patients (and their patients recognize it), but family doctors cannot be expected to continue propping up a broken system that is abandoning them. We need decisive and urgent action now to strengthen primary care in Canada so that everyone across the country has access to high-quality care provided by a family doctor.
About the College of Family Physicians of Canada™The College of Family Physicians of Canada (CFPC) is the professional organization that represents more than 42,000 members across the country. The College establishes the standards for and accredits postgraduate family medicine training in Canada’s 17 medical schools. It reviews and certifies continuing professional development programs and materials that enable family physicians to meet certification and licensing requirements. The CFPC provides high-quality services, supports family medicine teaching and research, and advocates on behalf of the specialty of family medicine, family physicians, and the patients they serve.
Media ContactCourtny Vaz
College of Family Physicians of Canada