After two years of COVID, London medical doctors are sounding the alarm over burnout


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04/08/20221 day ago2 minutes read 31 comments The Emergency Department of the London Health Sciences Center is seen in this Free Press file photo

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Doctor shortages and burnout, diagnostic backlogs and patients delaying care.

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As the healthcare system begins to recover from two years of pandemic-related setbacks, the GP, who heads a major London doctors’ group, is urging voters to make healthcare a ballot box issue this June.

Sharad Rai, President of the London District Academy of Medicine, said the COVID-19 crisis has created new problems for GPs and exacerbated existing health system problems, such as surgical and diagnostic wait times.

“We really need Ontarians to reach out to all political parties and really make healthcare an electoral issue,” Rai said.

“I encourage Ontarians of all political persuasions to reach out to their candidates and emphasize that we need solutions to the problems our healthcare system is facing.”

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Ontario voters will go to the polls no later than June 2nd.

In the London area, including St Thomas and Strathroy, the Ontario Medical Association said there were vacancies for 94 doctors. Rai said many GPs have been burned out by the work pressures caused by the pandemic and several in the London area have decided to retire in the last two years.

“We have more Londoners than ever before and we have over a million Ontarians who don’t have a GP,” he said. Access to child and adolescent psychiatry in the region is an ongoing problem.

Since March 2020, London’s hospitals have performed about 11,300 fewer surgeries than they would have expected in non-pandemic times. While totals include patients whose procedures have been postponed during pandemic waves, it also includes those who are not yet in the system because of delays in diagnostic testing or specialist referrals.

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It’s these patients, who may be living with undiagnosed diseases, that pose a big problem, Rai said.

As the province works to recover from two years of continuous COVID-19 restrictions, Rai wants health system improvements and basic care support to be the focus in the post-pandemic emergency phase.

Primary care physicians could benefit from medical clerks handling some patient records, Rai said, or from policies streamlining referrals to specialists.

Rai said the public could benefit from expanded access to family health teams, a model where patients have access to a range of doctors and other professionals, including nurses, orderlies and sometimes nutritionists or social workers.

“There are structural problems that London GPs cannot solve overnight. We need government support to help us do that,” he said.

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