Family Doctor Crisis Looms in Ontario Amid Mounting Bureaucratic Pressures


Immersed in inordinate amounts of paperwork, a family physician in Toronto finds herself metaphorically “drowning” amidst her professional responsibility to patients. Dr. Nadia Alam, a GP anesthetist with a 15-year practice, shared her escalating frustrations in a recent interview, revealing a dark underbelly to the professional practice even as she continues providing her indispensable service to the community.

The revelations surfaced around the time the Ontario College of Family Physicians issued a stark warning. The organization predicts a concerning reality: one in four Ontarians may confront a future without a family doctor in a span of five years. This startling alarm signifies a deep crisis, pressuring many doctors either to relinquish their practice or trim their operating hours.

Dr. Alam pointedly indicated the significant factors undermining her role, “The underfunding, the administrative load, and the dearth of vital resources for quality patient care. All that is pulling me down, and I’m not alone in this.” She further admitted to questioning her suitability for family medicine.

Despite the discontentment, Dr. Alam still finds pleasure in direct interaction with her 600 patients, cherishing these one-on-one connections. However, the joy is short-lived. Upon their departure, she’s left to face an overwhelming mound of paperwork, a tedious reality that she solely shoulders.

The Ontario College of Family Physicians report indicates troubling trends. The province could witness a significant exodus of family doctors leaving their practices, or at least, reducing their working hours in the next five years. Approximately 65% of the surveyed doctors admitted to such possibilities, as administrative work extracts up to 40% of their weekly uptime.

Dr. Alam’s struggle with her administrative responsibilities prompted her to rise early, trying to gain a toehold on the paperwork. “It’s distressing to know that things are slipping through my hands, and even more distressing to admit it”, she confesses, recounting how filling out forms to assist her patient’s disability claim leaves her knotted in frustration.

Predicting a dire shortage of family doctors, the OCFP warns of a severe crisis. Estimates suggest that by 2026, one in every four Ontarians – totaling up to 4.4 million – will lack access to a family doctor.

The situation, the college states, shows signs of rapid deterioration. 2022 forecasts suggest one in five Ontarians might lack a family doctor by 2026. Current figures project a substantial section of the population, particularly in Toronto, is already grappling with a scarcity of family physicians.

In response, Dr. Alam, along with other members of the Ontario Union of Family Physicians (OUFP), a group of over 1,000 practitioners, are appealing for an end to defunding to preserve and enhance patient care.

Lamenting the grim scenario she faces, Dr. Alam voiced her concern, “Family medicine is a derailing business model, primarily due to underfunding.” She further articulates her distress at the dismal prospect of leaving her beloved practice due to the overwhelming administrative load and scant resources.

With resignation and sadness, she predicts her capabilities to continue could soon hit a wall. “I’ve got maybe three months left in me, maybe. As I face a possibly imminent exit, I feel like I’m leaving my patients in the lurch even though I feel overwhelmed,” said Dr. Alam. The pathway to resolving this escalating crisis rests on the essential steps the authorities need to take urgently, for it seems impossible to sink any lower than the current state. The final outcome hangs in the balance.


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