‘A better system is possible’: Asking Canadians what kind of family doctor care they want

Op-ed in the Toronto Star by Dr. Tara Kiran

Family doctors are the front door of our health system. They’re where you go when you are sick. And they keep you from getting sick in the first place, providing immunizations, screening tests and care for chronic conditions like diabetes or asthma.

Family doctors connect you to other parts of the health system, so you can get extra help when you need it. They know you as a person and can help guide you through tough decisions.

But for too many people in Canada, that front door is now closed. Even before the pandemic, 4.6 million people in Canada didn’t have a family doctor. The pandemic has just made things worse.

Research we published last week found that twice as many family doctors stopped working during the first six months of the pandemic, compared to what would have been expected based on trends from the past decade. Other research we’ve done has found that one in five family doctors are thinking about closing their practice in the next five years.

At the same time, our population is aging, and fewer medical students are choosing family medicine as a career. Even those who do are more likely to specialize in something afterward rather than open a family practice.

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