An August poll by research institute Angus Reid shows British Columbians have some of the worst access to family doctors in Canada.
Nationally, about one in five Canadian adults are without a regular physician, according to the 2,279 people polled. In B.C., however, that number jumps to 26 per cent, a rate matched only by Quebec. Saskatchewan and Ontario have the lowest rates at 14 per cent each.
Even among those with a family doctor, seeing them remains difficult, the poll suggests. Just seven per cent of B.C. adults said they have easy access to their physician. Another 36 per cent described access as “difficult” and 31 per cent as “okay.”
On average in Canada, the situation is slightly better. About 14 per cent of people say they have easy access, 33 per cent say it’s difficult and another 33 per cent say it’s okay.
Wait times to get an appointment are also an issue. Almost half (48 per cent) of B.C. poll respondents said they have to wait at least a week to get in to see their doctor. Another 42 per cent said it takes at least a few days, and just 10 per cent said they can see their doctor within a day or two. Nationally, 18 per cent said they can get in within the latter time frame.
Of course, wait times to actually get a family doctor are dramatically longer. In B.C., 31 per cent of people without a doctor have been searching for one for over a year, while 49 per cent said they have simply given up, according to the poll. Nine per cent have been waiting under a year and 11 per cent said they don’t want or need a doctor. On average nationally, 19 per cent of people have waited under a year, 35 per cent have waited more than a year, 29 per cent have given up and 17 don’t want a doctor.
Virtual appointments are on the rise across the country, but are especially prevalent in B.C. Canada-wide, 68 per cent of people said they see their doctor in person, whereas in B.C. just 46 per cent said the same.
The poll also compared Canada to the United States, where 92 per cent of people said they see their doctor in person. Americans are also more likely to get in to their doctor within a day or two than Canadians, the poll found.
At the end of August, B.C. announced $118 million in funding to address the family doctor shortage. It will help doctors cover the overhead costs of their practices until the province and Doctors of BC develop an alternative payment model.
Under the current fee-for service system, physicians receive only about $30 per patient, regardless of the complexity of the health care needs. The new model will likely be based on how much time physicians spend with patients.
The Angus Reid Institute survey ran from Aug. 8 to 10 and collected responses from 2,279 Canadian adults, 277 of which resided in B.C. It carries a margin of error of +/- 2.0 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.