Aging population and chronic diseases causing a strain on the health system: National Physician Survey

    OTTAWA, June 11 /CNW Telbec/ - New data released today from the 2007
National Physician Survey (NPS) reveals that Canadian physicians are
experiencing a health system under stress with patients who have complex
health needs, emergency departments that are overloaded, and insufficient
physician numbers due to the shortfall of broad-based generalists who are so
essential for the care of older populations with multiple chronic diseases.
All of this points to the need for urgent action.
    According to the NPS survey, 80 percent of physicians overall identified
that the growing needs of chronic patient care places the most demand on their
time. They are seeing more and more Canadians who are suffering from diabetes,
cancer, heart disease and mental health issues:

    - 86% of family physicians (FPs) provide care for patients with chronic
      mental illnesses
    - 88% of FPs care for patients with heart disease and patients with
    - 76% of medical oncologists identify system funding and 71% identify the
      lack of availability of personnel as major barriers to treating cancer
    - 50% of endocrinologists rated access to FPs for their patients as poor,
      compared to 29% overall for other specialists.

    The system, unfortunately, is not adequately equipped to provide timely
care for these patients. "Canada needs a coordinated, pan-Canadian approach to
educate, train, recruit and retain a sufficient number of physicians to meet
the needs of an aging population with multiple health problems," explained
Dr. Louise Samson, President of The Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons
of Canada (RCPSC). "This approach should include support for an infrastructure
charged with coordinating the ongoing study, monitoring and public reporting
of the health human resource needs across the country."

    Emergency departments becoming overloaded

    The needs of patients for urgent care exceed the capacity of the system to
respond in a timely way. While 65 percent of family physicians can see a
patient in urgent need of care within one day, only 37 percent of all other
specialists can respond in that timeframe. "Limited access to family
physicians and other specialist physicians is putting undue pressure on
overloaded emergency departments," noted Dr. Ruth Wilson, President of The
College of Family Physicians of Canada (CFPC). "The emergency department has
become the back door to our health system which is not appropriate, efficient
or cost effective." With 45% of RCPSC-certified and 33% of CFPC-certified
emergency medicine physicians reporting in the NPS 2007 that they plan to
reduce their hours in the next two years, the situation has reached a critical
point that must find sustainable solutions.
    Governments, medical schools and professional medical organizations must
collaborate and develop new ways to improve continuity of care for patients by
forging links across the health care system. Greater systemic cooperation is
needed to address the new, emerging and growing demands of patient care in
today's health environment.
    Generalist specialists like family physicians, internists, pediatricians
and general surgeons are an integral part of the health system in this
country. However, these specialties are facing resource shortages and the NPS
survey indicates large numbers plan to retire within the next two years.
    "The broad-based care that generalists provide is especially crucial in
smaller communities," stated Canadian Medical Association President, Dr. Brian
Day. "These physicians are already facing difficult conditions, with many
55 years or older, and many not only reducing their work hours but also
planning to retire in the near future." Forty-nine percent of internists, 38%
of general surgeons, 39% of pediatricians(1) and 33% of family physicians are
55 or older. Forty-one percent of internists, 40% of general surgeons, 33% of
pediatricians, and 34% of family physicians plan to reduce their hours in the
next two years.

    The NPS has been made possible through the financial contributions of 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 a much more concentrated look at highly specialized care provided by
family physicians and other specialists in Canada, please see the summary
report on the NPS website, In addition, if you
visit the NPS website, you will find tabular results for every survey question
for every specialty.

    For more information about NPS, please go to:

    (1) "Pediatrics" refers only to general pediatrics and the special
        programs of developmental pediatrics and neonatal and perinatal

    (Aussi disponible en français)

For further information:

For further information: To request interviews, please contact:
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. 180, (613) 260-4180 ext. 180, Cell.: (613) 286-7328,; Lucie Boileau, Canadian Medical Association,
1-800-663-7336 ext. 1266, (613) 731-8610 ext. 1266,

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