More than two million Ontarians are estimated to be living without a family doctor, according to a primary health research program based in the province.
“You just assume that your children are taken care of by our healthcare system. You don’t expect them to decline your baby,” said Tanner Forster, a Waterloo mom who has a doctor but can’t find one for her newborn.
Forster said she expected her family doctor in Kitchener to accept her 2-month old daughter, Farrah, as a patient just like she had with her son two years ago but when she called, she was rejected.
“The receptionist I’ve talked to several times just stated they’re not accepting new born babies and for me to take her to a walk-in clinic or find another family doctor,” said Forster.
A representative from the doctor’s office said Forster’s doctor is on maternity leave and while other physicians have taken over her current caseload, they are unable to accept new patients on her behalf and can’t take on new patients themselves.
Forster said she tried calling several doctors in the region only to be told their patient rosters are full.
“It’s like almost impossible to find a family doctor,” said Forster, “I’m just going to keep looking until I find one and who knows when that will be?”
According to a new report by Inspire-PHC, an Ontario-based primary health care research program, 2.2 million people in the province do not have a family doctor.
“Doctors, nurses, everyone, we’re short. It’s big numbers and particularly rural communities, it’s a real challenge. We’ve been fairly successful in recruiting but we need more,” said Ross Kirkconnell, the executive director of the Guelph Family Health Team.
Kirkconnell said Guelph has approximately 100 family doctors, 17 were recruited over the last three years but that’s still not enough.
He said they need to recruit at least two doctors every year to meet Guelph’s projected population growth and even then, more needs to be done to close the primary care gap.
“Graduate more medical students, recruit more doctors in our communities, take away the non-value added work that doctors are doing and also of course, to work in team-based care where you can share the load of the work that needs to be done,” said Kirkconnell.
He added for those looking for a family physician to visit Ontario’s Health Care Connect.
“Health Care Connect does their best to try to match those who register with family doctors but it’s a tough time right now,” said Kirkconnell.
Forster said she feels failed by the healthcare system. She plans to go to a walk-in clinic for her daughter’s upcoming vaccinations but knows it’s not a long term-solution.
“I would love all of us or at least both my children to have the same doctor,” said Forster.