Access to a regular medical doctor, 2011

For many Canadians, the first point of contact for medical care is their doctor. Being without a regular medical doctor is associated with fewer visits to general practitioners or specialists, who can play a role in the early screening and treatment of medical conditions.

In 2011, 4.4 million (15.3%) of Canadians aged 12 and older reported that they did not have a regular medical doctor. The percentage of males and females who do not have a regular medical doctor has remained unchanged since 2007 (Chart 1).

Chart 1
Percentage without a regular medical doctor, by sex, household population aged 12 or older, Canada, 2003 to 2011

Description

Chart 1 Percentage without a regular medical doctor, by sex, household population aged  12 or older, Canada, 2003 to 2011

Source: Canadian Community Health Survey, 2003, 2005, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011.

The age group 20 to 34 had the highest rate of being without a regular medical doctor. The percentage of Canadians 35 or older without a regular doctor decreased as age increased (Chart 2).

In 2011, men aged 20-64 were significantly more likely than women to report being without a regular doctor (Chart 2). In the 12-19 and 65 or older age groups, there was no significant difference between men and women.

Chart 2
Percentage without a regular medical doctor, by age group and sex, household population aged 12 or older, Canada, 2011

Description

Chart 2 Percentage without a regular medical doctor, by age group and sex, household  population aged 12 or older, Canada, 2011

Source: Canadian Community Health Survey, 2011.

The proportion of residents who were without a regular doctor was lower than the national average in five provinces: Newfoundland and Labrador (8.9%), Nova Scotia (6.5%), New Brunswick (7.5%), Ontario (9.1%), and British Columbia (13.9%). A higher proportion of residents of Quebec (25.5%), Saskatchewan (19.5%), Alberta (20.3%), Yukon (20.6%), Northwest Territories (63.6%) and Nunavut (84.5%) were without a regular doctor, compared to the national level. In the territories, a nurse practitioner is often used as the first point of medical contact, rather than a medical doctor.

In 2011, the most common reason respondents gave for not having a regular doctor was that they had not looked for one (46.1%). Among those who had looked for a doctor, 36.4% said that doctors in their area were not taking new patients, 30.9% said that their doctor had retired or left the area, 28.1% said that no doctors were available in their area and 19.4% gave other reasons. (These add up to more than 100% because respondents could choose more than one reason for not having found a regular medical doctor.)

Of the 4.45 million Canadians without a regular doctor in 2011, 80.5% reported that they had a usual place to go when they were sick or in need of health advice. When they needed medical care, 61.6% reported using a walk-in clinic, up from 58.1% in 2008; another 12.8% visited a hospital emergency room, down from 14.9% in 2008; while 8.5% used a community health centre or, in Quebec, a centre local de services communautaires, unchanged since 2008. The remaining 17.1% reported using other facilities such as appointment clinics, doctors' offices, hospital out-patient clinics and telephone health lines.


References

Nabalamba, Alice and Wayne Millar. 2007. Going to the doctor. Health Reports, vol. 18 no.1 pages 23–35.

Carrière, Gisèle. 2005. Consultations with doctors and nurses. Health Reports, vol. 16 no. 4 pages 45–48.

Tjepkema, Michael. 2008. Health care use among gay, lesbian and bisexual Canadians. Health Reports,vol. 19 no. 1 pages 53–64.

Data

Additional data from the Canadian Community Health Survey are available from CANSIM table 105–0501.