Ontarians have trouble accessing family doctor: Study

If you have trouble booking an appointment with your family doctor, you are not alone.

A recent study by the Health Quality of Ontario found that only 44 per cent of Ontarians report being able to schedule an appointment with their family doctor the same or next day when they are sick.

The report found that compared to 10 other developed countries, among them France, Australia and the United States, Ontario ranks the worst.

Dr. Brett Belchetz, an emergency room physician and medical expert, believes this is happening because our universal health care causes there to be a “mismatch” in supply and demand.

“You have a system that has only one provider and that’s the government and there’s only one price for care and that’s zero,” Belchetz said. “Supply and demand will never line up.”

Family doctor access on the same or next day in Ontario

44% across Ontario
35% in rural areas
46% in urban areas

Source: Health Quality of Ontario

When people are not able to see their family doctor promptly, they often go elsewhere for treatment.

According to a report by the Canadian Institute for Health information, 44 per cent of Canadians used the hospital emergency room in the past year, the highest among developed countries.

“It’s very frustrating and inconvenient that most of the time I have to wait a few days to see my family doctor,” said Toronto-area patient, Richard Bracebridge.

“There are some tests that only my doctor can perform.”

In order to ease wait times in emergency rooms, Belchetz would like to see user fees of $10, $15 in place to deter unnecessary visits to the hospital. For low-income earners, they would be reimbursed at the end of the year.

Despite an abundance of walk-in clinics in the province, it’s best to have a family doctor because they know your medical history.

Bracebridge said he uses walk-in clinics when he needs treatment more promptly, there is also a downside to this.

“It’s very inconvenient and extra work for me to inform my family doctor about my medical issues and care I received from the walk-in clinic,” he said.

To meet supply and demand, Belchetz recommends putting a price on our healthcare.

“When the price of any good is zero, the demand is high, but when you look what other countries have done is they have made demand finite by giving at least some price on the actual good that is being supplied,” he said.

Doctor salary cuts in Ontario

– Ontario doctors received a 2.6 per cent cut in January and another 1.3 per cent fee cut in October.

He suggests moving toward a two-tier system.

“What the private system does is it allows that extra amount of supply to be out,” Belchetz said.

“It allows physicians and anyone in healthcare to provide more healthcare for a price and so what ends up happening is those parts of the population that are willing to pay for care, do pay for care. You create a separate supply and demand out of the main system which means that the government is no longer solely responsible for taking care of everybody.”

The main concern with a two-tier health care system is more physicians would want to work in the private system to earn a higher salary. In France, where a two-tier system exists, doctors are required to work a certain amount of hours in the public system first before switching to the private sector.