There will be roughly 100,000 people in Hamilton and some 4.4 million people in Ontario without a family doctor in 2026 if the provincial health-care system doesn’t improve, according to the Ontario College of Family Physicians.
Right now, there are between 55,000 and 60,000 people in Hamilton with no family doctor, and 2.2 million Ontarians without one.
“It’s a terrifying projection,” Dr. Cathy Risdon, a family doctor in Hamilton, professor of family medicine and the department’s chair at McMaster University, said in an interview.
Risdon said many family doctors in Hamilton are retiring, many graduates aren’t entering family medicine and some family doctors are thinking about leaving the field.
“It’s a perfect storm,” she said.
WATCH: The ‘perfect storm’ behind the family doctor shortage
What she said echoes much of what the Hamilton Family Health Team (HFHT) previously told CBC.
“We are really concerned … that’s what keeps us up at night,” Gloria Jordan, HFHT chief executive officer, said in a recent interview.
Risdon said while some feel they may not need a family doctor because they can use walk-in clinics or the emergency room, having access to a family doctor, aligned with a health team, who understands someone’s medical history is beneficial for all.
She added the situation hits equity-seeking communities harder too.
“The people who need [a family doctor] most are struggling to find it,” Risdon said.
‘We know more needs to be done,’ province says
Risdon said the province needs to immediately implement family health teams, eliminate sick note requirements and standardize insurance forms.
The latter two recommendations would help doctors spend less time on paperwork and more time on patients.
Hannah Jensen, press secretary for Ontario’s Health Minister Sylvia Jones, said over 90 per cent of people in the province have a family doctor or primary health provider.
“Since 2018, we have registered 8,000 new physicians in Ontario, including a 8.1 per cent increase in family doctors, but we know more needs to be done,” Jensen said.
Jensen noted the government launched Your Health, which they say makes it more convenient for people to find care closer to where they live.
Jensen said the province has also expanded medical schools, made it easier for internationally educated health workers to start working right away and has grown the number of professional health teams.
Risdon said the province’s investment in more health teams is a good start, but it will need far more health teams to ensure every Ontarian has one.