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The CFPC re-assesses COVID-19’s toll on family doctors one year after initial survey


(Mississauga, ON) In May 2020 the College of Family Physicians of Canada (CFPC) surveyed its members to learn how the COVID-19 pandemic was affecting them, their practices, and how they care for their patients. One year later we asked again to gauge the toll that continuing to provide care on the front lines of the pandemic—while also fulfilling their regular duties to their patients and communities—has taken on family physicians in Canada. In addition to the full 2021 update, we are pleased to share the following highlights from this year’s survey.

Family doctors are important providers of front-line, comprehensive, ongoing primary care for patients. It is essential to listen to their concerns, such as:
  • 87% of survey respondents are highly concerned about patients’ emotional or mental stress, and 67% are highly concerned about patients’ use of alcohol and other non-prescription drugs
  • 54% are highly concerned about reduced in-person interactions with patients, and 60% are highly concerned about health risks due to reduced patient-doctor contact
  • 62% say that virtual care has improved access for patients, but between 40% and 66% also say virtual care worsens their ability to diagnose new patient complaints, provide medical procedures, and manage chronic disease and mental health conditions
Family doctors are feeling increasingly burnt out. Support is needed for their well-being and to ensure that the people of Canada continue to have access to the critically important care they receive from family doctors.
  • 15% of survey respondents say they’re feeling burnt out, which is a three-fold increase over the 5% who felt burnt out in May 2020
  • 51% say they’re working beyond their desired capacity, which is in stark contrast to the 76% of family doctors who had reduced their work hours due to fewer patient visits at the start of the pandemic
  • In the May 2020 survey 63% of respondents said they were highly concerned about lost revenues for their practices, and this concern was greatest among those working in fee-for-service family practices; this proportion decreased to 34% in 2021 as more patients are returning for regular medical appointments
Throughout the pandemic family doctors have taken important steps to contain the spread of COVID-19. Our 2021 survey shows that:
  • 37% have served in dedicated COVID-19 screening and vaccination centres
  • 89% are counselling patients about the vaccines and 74% are referring them to vaccination sites
  • 34% report COVID-19 cases to public health authorities
When people get COVID-19, family doctors are right there as some of the most important care providers for patients. The new survey results indicate:
  • 49% provide care to non-hospitalized COVID-19 patients—this is incredibly important in keeping ICU spaces open for the most ill COVID-19 patients
  • 20% provide care to hospitalized COVID-19 patients
  • 29% have had patients die from COVID-19; too many family doctors have lost patients to COVID-19, but they are there to help families as they grieve the loss of loved ones
COVID-19 has revealed major inequities in human suffering among vulnerable populations. Family doctors are working to close these gaps:
  • 14% of family physicians provide care to patients with COVID-19 in Indigenous communities
  • 11% of family physicians provide care to COVID-19 patients who are experiencing homelessness
  • 27% of family physicians care for patients with COVID-19 in long-term care and other residential facilities  
A total of 3,409 respondents completed the May 2021 CFPC Members Survey on COVID-19, representing 9% of CFPC members.

About the College of Family Physicians of Canada

The College of Family Physicians of Canada (CFPC) is the professional organization that represents more than 40,000 members across the country. The College establishes the standards for and accredits postgraduate family medicine training in Canada’s 17 medical schools. It reviews and certifies continuing professional development programs and materials that enable family physicians to meet certification and licensing requirements. The CFPC provides high-quality services, supports family medicine teaching and research, and advocates on behalf of the specialty of family medicine, family physicians, and the patients they serve.


Jayne Johnston
Director, Communications
College of Family Physicians of Canada
B: 905-629-0900 ext. 303
M: 905-407-9140
[email protected]

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