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Nearly 60% of British Columbians find it difficult to access a doctor or have no access at all: poll


A new poll from the Angus Reid Institute suggests half of Canadians face challenges accessing a doctor. The problem is more pronounced in British Columbia.

Half of respondents across Canada said they found it difficult to access a family doctor or didn’t have a doctor at all. That number rose to 59 per cent for respondents in B.C., and 60 per cent in Atlantic Canada.

Thirty-three per cent of all respondents reported having “difficult access” to a doctor — waiting a week or more for an appointment — while 17 per cent did not have a doctor but wanted one. In B.C., those numbers were 36 per cent and 23 per cent respectively. 

One in five Canadians — about six million Canadian adults — do not have a family doctor, according to the institute.

In B.C., almost a million residents have no family doctor, with some critics blaming the province’s fee-for-service system, which pays doctors for each office visit.

The province recently announced $118 million in funding to help family doctors with high overhead costs in the short term, but some doctors say it’s not enough to address the mounting health-care crisis. 

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Fourteen per cent of respondents reported easy access to a family doctor, while 33 per cent reported “OK” access and another 33 per cent reported “difficult access.” Seventeen per cent did not have a doctor but wanted one, while three per cent said they didn’t want or need one.

Among those with a doctor, 18 per cent reported it was easy to get a doctor’s appointment, usually taking a day or two. Forty-one per cent said they usually have to wait a few days, but it could be sooner if needed. Another 41 per cent reported it usually takes at least a week or more to get an appointment. 

The responses paint a picture where “the system seems to work for 14 per cent of Canadian adults or 4.4 million Canadians,” the report noted.

The long search for a doctor

Of those looking for a doctor, 35 per cent say they have been searching for more than a year, while 29 per cent say they have given up their search entirely. Thirty per cent of those without a doctor age 55 and older — a demographic that is more likely to need health care — say they have stopped looking.

According to the report, being unable to reach a doctor in a timely manner can translate to struggles in getting referrals for tests or appointments with specialists. It said Canadians with easy access to a general practitioner were half as likely to report difficulty in booking other types of appointments, compared to those with difficult access or no access at all. 

The report is the second of three from the Angus Reid Institute examining public opinion about the health-care system. The first report found Canadians were less satisfied in their access to health care than Americans.

The Angus Reid Institute conducted two online surveys in August, receiving responses from 2,279 Canadians between Aug. 8-10, and 1,209 Americans between Aug. 16-17. The Canadian findings had a margin of error of +/- 2.0 per cent, 19 times out of 20, while the U.S. results had a margin of error of +/- 3.0 per cent. 


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