Ontario family doctors left the profession at the start of the pandemic at double the rate of the years before COVID-19 hit, new research indicates.
About three per cent of family doctors across the province — 385 doctors — stopped practising between March and September 2020, according to a study led by Unity Health Toronto that was published Monday in Annals of Family Medicine.
That accounted for an estimated 170,000 patients losing access to primary care, and was higher than the 1.6 per cent of family doctors who stopped working during a comparable period each year between 2010 and 2019.
“The pandemic has made a bad situation even worse in primary care,” said lead author Dr. Tara Kiran, a family doctor and researcher at St. Michael’s Hospital, which is part of the Unity Health Toronto network.
“We really need to address this issue by supporting more people to go into family medicine and primary care.”
The work builds on figures released last week that showed as of March 2020, nearly 1.8 million Ontarians did not have a family doctor and another 1.7 million Ontarians have a family doctor older than 65 years old.
“This is a big problem for patients in Ontario,” Kiran said.