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Ontario's medical schools improve access to family doctors

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Ontario's six family medicine programs have graduated 1,900 more family doctors in the last decade, transforming family medicine and improving access for patients, according to a new report by the faculties of medicine.

The Family Medicine Expansion Report says a 10-year plan to address a shortage of family doctors by Ontario's faculties of medicine and the province has more than doubled the number of family medicine residents and improved health care delivery in more than 155 communities.

"As a result of a strategic collaboration by Ontario faculties of medicine and the Ontario government, we have significantly more family doctors in the province than we did a decade ago," says Bonnie M. Patterson, President and CEO of the Council of Ontario Universities (COU), which represents the province's 21 publicly funded universities. "The transformation of primary care has been dramatic and, as a result, many more Ontario patients have access to the care they need."

Today, Ontario's family medicine programs are graduating more than 500 doctors per year, up from 200 per year in 2003. As a result, figures released last year by the Ontario Medical Association indicate that 2.1 million more Ontario patients now have access to primary health care.

"We have partnered with more than 155 communities throughout Ontario," says Dr. Michael Strong, Dean of the Schulich School of Medicine and Dentistry, Western University, and Co-Chair of the Council of Ontario Faculties of Medicine. "As a result, these communities have been able to recruit thousands of new doctors, and millions of people across the province are now attached to a family doctor. That's a huge advance in primary care that also saves many unnecessary visits to emergency rooms."

Ontario's faculties of medicine and the Ontario government embarked on a strategic collaboration to address a serious doctor shortage in 2003. Focused efforts were made to address the shortage and medical school enrolment grew by 80 per cent.

Together, Ontario's universities and the government have improved access to family doctors by expanding the number of residents and engaging communities to improve their ability to recruit new graduates.

For the benefit of patients, and to build on this progress, we must continue these important investments in primary care reform.

Quick Facts:

  • Ontario's family medicine programs graduate more than 500 family doctors per year, up from just over 200 per year a decade ago
  • More medical students are choosing a career in family medicine because of investments to enhance medical school curriculum
  • New partnerships mean more than 155 communities across Ontario have recruited new graduates
  • 2.1 million more Ontarians now have access to primary health care
  • Many communities have donated generously to support family medicine education infrastructure, saving the government millions of dollars.

Read the Family Medicine Expansion Report.