Access to health care: Survey finds Canada is not a level playing field

    OTTAWA, March 18 /CNW Telbec/ - A national survey of physicians reveals
doctors across Canada are concerned about inadequate access to health care
services for their patients, and the situation in some provinces and
territories is worse than in others.
    The National Physician Survey (NPS) is Canada's largest census survey of
physicians and physicians-in-training. The survey is conducted jointly by the
Canadian Medical Association, The College of Family Physicians of Canada, and
The Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada. Today's release
provides the regional detail from the original release of national results in
January. It updates the results found in the 2004 survey with an in-depth look
at how and where physicians in each province and territory work, and the
issues they face in providing care to their patients.
    "The 2007 NPS confirms that the dire shortage of family physicians and
certain other specialists is a significant and ongoing issue for patients in
all provinces and territories," states CMA President, Dr. Brian Day. "Some
areas are worse off than others. Health workforce planning must be addressed
to improve access to health care for patients no matter where they live."
    Looking for a family physician? Saskatchewan ranked the highest for the
percentage of family physicians accepting new patients (45%). PEI ranked the
lowest, with 2% of family physicians accepting new patients.
    "Federal funding and a commitment to reducing wait times has helped
improve access to care in specified areas, but the regional NPS outcomes
reflect significant variations in access to specialty care," says Dr. Louise
Samson, President, The Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada.
"The NPS results confirm that patients' access to psychiatrists, orthopedic
surgeons, ophthalmologists and advanced diagnostic services remain a challenge
in most provinces and territories. In fact, ratings for access to orthopedic
surgeons deteriorated in eight provinces since 2004. We must commit the
additional resources needed to further improve access to these and other
important services."

    The percentage of physicians ranking access as fair to poor differs among
    the provinces and territories:

    - 71% of family physicians ranked access to psychiatrists in Ontario fair
      to poor compared to 45% of family physicians in Saskatchewan.

    - 61% of family physicians in Quebec ranked access to orthopedic surgeons
      fair to poor compared to 26% in Prince Edward Island.

    - 72% of family physicians in Prince Edward Island ranked access to
      ophthalmologists fair to poor compared to 25% in Saskatchewan.

    - 57% of physicians in British Columbia and Saskatchewan ranked access to
      diagnostic services (e.g. CTs and MRIs) fair to poor compared to 34% in
      New Brunswick.

    Several significant trends in physician practice patterns are highlighted
    in the NPS results:

    - Based on the 6% who plan to retire, we can expect upwards of
      4,000 physicians leaving clinical practice over the next two years.
      Intentions to retire are consistent province to province.

    - Gaps are being increasingly filled by a female physician cohort.
      Studies have shown this to have positive impacts on doctor-patient
      relationships, service organization, and access to services, while
      having significant implications for future resource planning.
      Currently, 33% of all family physicians under the age of 35 are women
      in Prince Edward Island, and this percentage rises to 72% in Quebec.

    - In 2004, 26% of physicians planned to reduce their hours. The 2007 NPS
      confirmed that in fact 27% of physicians had reduced their hours over
      the last two years. Now, 35% of physicians plan to reduce their weekly
      work hours over the next two years - from 28% of family physicians in
      Manitoba to 37% of family physicians in Quebec and the Territories; and
      from 30% of other specialists in Prince Edward Island and Nova Scotia
      to 40% in Quebec.

    "The NPS partner organizations challenge all levels of government and
health authorities across the country to develop a pan-Canadian strategy that
will effectively address the urgent issues identified in the NPS results that
further threaten Canada's health system," says Dr. Ruth Wilson, President, The
College of Family Physicians of Canada. "We need to work together to enhance
the education, training, recruitment and retention of physicians to ensure a
sustainable workforce that can meet the health care needs of Canadians in all
provinces and territories."
    For a more detailed summary highlighting the 2007 provincial/territorial
results, see backgrounder and tabular results for all survey questions, at More NPS research will be released in April
2008 to share a specialist physician analysis as well as medical student and
resident results.

    The NPS is funded through contributions from the Canadian Medical
Association, The College of Family Physicians of Canada, The Royal College of
Physicians and Surgeons of Canada, the Canadian Institute for Health
Information, and Health Canada.
    For more information about NPS, please go to: http:// (less
r than)

    (disponible en français)

For further information:

For further information: To request interviews: Cristiane Doherty, Delta
Media, 1-888-473-3582, Cell: (613) 799-9277,; Bernard
Gauthier, Delta Media, 1-888-473-3582,; Jayne Johnston,
The College of Family Physicians of Canada, 1-800-387-6197 ext. 303, (905)
629-0900 ext. 303,; Cecily Wallace, The Royal College of
Physicians and Surgeons of Canada, 1-800-668-3740 ext. 463, (613) 730-6277
ext. 463, Cell (613) 668-6465,; Lucie Boileau, Canadian
Medical Association, 1-800-663-7336 ext. 1266, (613) 731-8610 ext. 1266,

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