Skip to content

LETTER: Physician pay 'not keeping pace with inflation'

'It is no longer sustainable to run a family practice in Ontario,' local doctor says. 'If this were a minimum wage job, it would mean getting paid $6.29 per hour instead of $16.55'
doctor (2)
Stock image

BradfordToday and InnisfilToday welcome letters to the editor at [email protected] or via our website. Please include your full name, daytime phone number and address (for verification of authorship, not publication). The following letter is in response to a story regarding Midland doctor closing her practice Jan. 25.

I don’t think it’s news for anyone to learn that Ontario has a family medicine crisis.

Currently there are 2.3 million Ontarians without a family doctor, and that number is expected to rise to 4.4 million by 2026. A recent survey of Ontario family physicians showed that nearly 65% are planning to retire or leave general practice.

In the North Simcoe area, we are seeing the effects of this with retiring doctors and the recent closure of another family medicine practice in Midland. As a new practising physician in the area, my caseload has already filled up, and my office continually has to turn people away who come looking for a new doctor because my roster is full.

The Ontario government is trying to solve this issue with a series of half-measures, such as allowing pharmacists and nurses to prescribe for minor illnesses and expanding private healthcare. They are also trying to address the shortage of family physicians by expanding the amount of family medicine residency (medical training) spots at medical schools with the hopes of graduating more family doctors.

The problem with this approach that they’re not acknowledging is that not all family medicine graduates open a general practice. More and more these days, new family medicine graduates are choosing instead to go into emergency room or hospital-based jobs, and I don’t blame them. The fact is it is no longer sustainable to run a family practice in Ontario.

Running a family practice means being a small-business owner.

It means paying for rent, equipment and staff wages. All of these expenses have increased with inflation, but while most small business owners can increase their “prices” to make up for this, doctors can’t.

The rates that OHIP pays physicians for their services are fixed, and these rates have not been keeping pace with inflation. In fact, they are so far behind, that family physician pay rates are currently only 38% of what they should be.

If this were a minimum wage job, it would mean getting paid $6.29 per hour instead of $16.55.

At this very moment, the organization representing physicians, the Ontario Medical Association, is at the bargaining table with the province. They have just been told that instead of the two- to three-per-cent raise agreed upon in 2021, they will be getting one per cent or less.

So in the face of soaring overhead costs and minimal pay increases, it becomes quite easy to see why new graduates aren’t choosing to open family practices in this province.

The family doctor shortage is a massive problem with far-reaching effects. It is well-known that access to family medicine reduces emergency room visits as well as length of hospital stays.

Until this government commits to meaningful change and treating physicians with the respect and compensation they need to run a family practice, this crisis will continue. So if you’re fed up with this situation like I am, let your MPP know.

Sean Robinson, MD CCFP