Almost 20 per cent of Toronto family physicians are considering closing their practices in the next five years, according to a new study warning that more residents of Canada’s largest city could soon have trouble finding a doctor.
The findings are based on a survey of family physicians conducted in January, 2021 – at the height of the second wave of the pandemic. Of 439 doctors in Toronto who answered a question about their plans for the future, 77, or 17.5 per cent, said they were thinking of winding down their practice.
“To me, that was a really surprising number,” said Tara Kiran, the lead author of the study, which was published Monday in the journal Canadian Family Physician.
In a related study published in September, Dr. Kiran and her fellow researchers at Unity Health Toronto and the non-profit research institute ICES mined Ontario Health Insurance Plan (OHIP) billing data to discover that almost three per cent of the province’s doctors had stopped practising during the first six months of the pandemic, about twice the normal rate.
Which is why Dr. Kiran, a family doctor at St. Michael’s Academic Family Health Team in Toronto, was startled to find significantly more doctors were thinking of giving up on office-based primary care.
“Here it was 17 per cent, almost one in five doctors, considering closing their practice,” she said. “If you’d asked me for an estimate before doing the survey, I would not have estimated something nearly that high.”