COVID-19 has exposed so many cracks in our healthcare system. One that has received little attention is how to organize family doctors to provide the best possible care for patients.
As it becomes clear that COVID-19 will be with us for a year or longer, the role family doctors play in preventing and managing chronic health conditions like diabetes and heart disease will be increasingly important. We need to ensure family doctors are organized, paid, and resourced to deliver the care patients need.
Like everyone else, family doctors have had to change how we work to adapt to the COVID-19 pandemic. We have deferred non-urgent visits and are assessing more patients virtually by phone, email, or video. We still see some people in the clinic – pregnant women, kids needing immunizations, and people who need to be examined – and are careful about how we do so. In some large practices, only one doctor is in the clinic at any one time. This approach saves personal protective equipment and reduces the risk of us infecting one another or our patients.
Some family doctors have made these changes with the support of a large team and are getting paid just as much as before the pandemic. But many other family doctors have been alone in navigating these changes and have seen a precipitous drop in their income, threatening their ability to care for patients.