A new report from Statistics Canada says an estimated 4.1 million Canadians aged 12 or older are without a family doctor, either because they can’t find one or haven’t looked.
The 2007 Canadian Community Health Survey found that among those who have no primary-care physician, about 78 per cent seek medical care elsewhere.
'How do we fix the Canadian system? I don't know. But we should be looking at the social healthcare systems of other countries for the answer, not to privatization.'
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The federal agency says 64 per cent reported going to walk-in or appointment clinics, 12 per cent went to a hospital emergency room, while about 10 per cent went to a community health centre.
The remaining 14 per cent chose to use other types of health-care facilities or services such as hospital out-patient clinics, telephone health lines or doctor's offices.
The health services used instead of a regular medical doctor varied according to the size of a person’s community. Nearly half of rural residents surveyed said they usually visit a clinic when they need advice or treatment, compared to seven in 10 urban residents.
Almost one-quarter of rural residents reported going to an emergency room, compared to eight per cent of urban residents.
The president of the College of Family Physicians of Canada says walk-in clinics, emergency departments and other alternatives are a good safety valve in the system for those unable to access medical care any other way.
But Dr. Ruth Wilson says they are not the best choice for patients who need long-term management of chronic diseases like diabetes and high blood pressure.