New research suggests that 6.5 million Canadians don’t have a family physician — a number that rose by 2 million during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Results from the OurCare national survey estimate that more than one in five Canadian adults don’t have a family physician or nurse practitioner.
The survey was conducted between September and October 2022 and includes more than 9,000 responses from across the country.
Around 1 in 3 adults in B.C, Quebec, and the Atlantic provinces reported not having a family doctor or nurse practitioner. That number drops to 13% in Ontario.
Adults who don’t have a doctor are higher among those who are racialized, lower income, and poorer health groups. Another 45% of those aged 18 to 29 said they didn’t have a family doctor. And 17% of respondents who were without a family doctor or nurse practitioner said they weren’t looking for one, most commonly because they thought they didn’t need one as they’re healthy.
Among the 65 and older age group, 13% reported a lack of a family physician.
In 2019, Statistics Canada estimated 4.5 million people aged 12 and over did not have a regular health-care provider. The OurCare national survey results suggest the number of Canadians without access to a family doctor rose dramatically over the Covid-19 pandemic.
A recent analysis of health administrative data in Ontario found that the number of people without regular access to primary care rose from 1.8 million in March 2020 to 2.2 million in March 2022.
Of those who lack a primary care physician, 12% are regularly turning to a specialist physician or pharmacist. They’re also visiting in-person walk-in clinics, virtual walk-in clinics or hospital emergency rooms. Some also turned to pharmacists, chiropractors, naturopaths, specialists and other providers.
Another 21% reported having to pay a fee when they sought care for their urgent problem with the fee paying for the appointment 80% of the time. The percentage of those reporting they had to pay a fee was more than twice as high in Quebec than other provinces.