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Canadian physicians concern about inadequate health-care resources for patients: survey


October 23, 2013
By Mari-Len De

Oct. 23, 2013 – New data released from the 2013 National Physician Survey (NPS) show physicians' concern over gaps in the Canadian health-care system that may be adversely affecting patient care. Access to key health-care resources, the impact of Canada's aging population and workforce planning issues are posing significant challenges for Canada's doctors.

The survey found leading concerns among physicians include the
insufficient availability of hospital beds, access to publicly-funded
physiotherapists and advanced diagnostic imaging tools.

"For
family physicians, the NPS findings reflect some positive changes to
health-care in our country," said Dr. Marie-Dominique Beaulieu,
president of the College of Family Physicians of Canada (CFPC). "We are
pleased to see progress being made but we remain concerned with access
to key resources that are needed to ensure quality care for all people
in Canada."

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Since 2004, the NPS has been a research project
conducted jointly by CFPC, the Canadian Medical Association (CMA) and
the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada (Royal College).
With nearly 10,500 physicians responding this year, the survey is viewed
as an important barometer of the country's present and future doctors
on a wide range of health-care issues.

Among key findings of the
2013 NPS is the fact that physicians continue to work an average of 54
hours a week providing direct patient care, research, teaching and
administration. Most average an additional 110 hours per month providing
on-call services in addition to regular practice hours. Even with these
long work hours, most physicians (59 per cent) were employed to their
satisfaction although nearly one-third indicated they were overworked.

The
2013 NPS also closely examined the issue of physicians who were
unemployed or under-employed. These issues were most common among
younger physicians and specialists in resource-intensive disciplines
such as cardiovascular and thoracic surgery, general surgery,
orthopaedic surgery, nuclear medicine and gastroenterology, which
require access to operating rooms, diagnostic equipment and other
resources. Critical care physicians reported the highest rate of under-
or unemployment at 31 per cent.

"Ensuring Canada has the right
mix and supply of physicians to meet the needs of patients requires,
first and foremost, that the federal government lead development of a
national health human resources strategy and a permanent agency to
support ongoing health workforce planning," said Royal College
president, Dr. Cecil Rorabeck.

The survey also noted a shift in
terms of the adoption of technology. The use of electronic records has
jumped from 39 per cent in 2010, to 62 per cent in 2013. Not
surprisingly, a quarter of the respondents indicated they had been using
electronic records for less than three years.

The NPS data also
highlight the fact that as Canada's population ages, care requirements
are also shifting. Fifty-nine per cent of geriatric medicine specialists
reported a major increase in the need for their services over the past
two years. Dermatology was another area where over half of respondents
(53 per cent) indicated there had been a major increase in demand for
services.

"Canada's doctors know that we need to make changes now
to respond to the evolving health-care needs of our aging society,"
said CMA president, Dr. Louis Hugo Francescutti. "As a first step, that
means we need our federal government to lead the development of a
national strategy for seniors' care in collaboration with the provinces
and territories. The time to act is now."


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