• Ontario physicians on the edge: study finds GPs face growing hostilities from patients

    6 July 2022

    More than two years since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, family doctors are burning out from, backing out and opting out of caring for their patients. A shocking 89% of Ontario-based general practitioners say they faced aggression from their patients in the last 6 months, resulting in an increase in stress, compassion fatigue and even work-related dread for these healthcare providers.


    The results come from “The Great Indignation”, a proprietary study led by Throughline Strategy and KeyOps. The survey of 52 Ontario GPs and 3 qualitative interviews was conducted in March 2022, following the second year of pandemic-exacerbated patient hostility and steadily rising work-related burnout.


    “We’re seeing unprecedented levels of burnout, instances of workplace hostility and signs of strain on family physicians and the broader healthcare system. This has accelerated in the last 2 years and our research highlights that no specialty is immune—many specialists are struggling with the same feelings of exhaustion, lack of appreciation and rising patient aggression. I worry about the long-term effects this will have on access and quality of care,” says Dr. Saeed Darvish, Cardiologist and Co-Founder of KeyOps.


    Female family physicians experience more than double the hostility than their male colleagues, hindering their ability to care for their patients. Female GPs kept quiet about COVID-19 safety three times more often than male physicians to avoid becoming a target of aggression and frustration throughout the pandemic. 61% of female physicians are also reducing their clinic hours to further avoid patient hostility.


    “Our primary resources for healthcare in Ontario are emotionally exhausted and lack the feeling of personal accomplishment they achieved pre-pandemic. Aggression is fueling rampant burnout and as a result, we are losing that personal touch and access to care with our family physicians,” added Peter Doulas, CEO at KeyOps.


    The realities faced by younger family physicians are raising alarm bells for the long-term outlook of our healthcare system. While 80% of GPs describe compassion fatigue as a significant impact of increasing patient hostility, this rises to 90% of junior family physicians. “I dread work. It makes me feel like a punching bag. I feel unable to do this for my entire career, and I am only 4 years into my practice,” described one physician during the study.


    “We are raising a generation of compassion-fatigued doctors to take care of us in the future,” added Nadia Sapiro, President & Founder of Throughline Strategy. “We need to put systems in place to protect and better recognize our healthcare providers in Ontario. Otherwise, we further risk a diminished responsiveness for not only future health crises but also basic healthcare for ourselves.”

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