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  • Writer's pictureLeora Goldreich

Physician Assistants: A solution to Ontario’s primary care crisis

By Leora Goldreich


Primary care providers are the backbone of our healthcare system. For patients seeking medical attention, family physicians are often the first line of contact, providing a comforting face to navigate the complex and often confusing maze that we call ‘Ontario’s healthcare system’. And yet, Ontario is facing a family medicine crisis.  Physician Assistants (PAs) are one solution to this crisis. 

Earlier this year, the Ontario College of Family Physicians urgently called on the Ontario Government to provide support for family doctors and patients. According to their statement, over 516,000 Torontonians do not have access to a family doctor, and this number is expected to increase to nearly 1 million by the year 2026 (Ontario College of Family Physicians [OCFP], 2024). Across Ontario, this statistic is forecasted to grow to 4.4 million in two years’ time as family physicians retire or switch specialties (OCFP, 2024). According to the college, Ontario’s family medicine crisis can be attributed to several challenges in retaining primary care physicians, including overwhelming time spent on administrative tasks and lack of team supports. Last month, the Ontario Government announced plans for a pilot program where primary care providers will utilize new digital health avenues, including artificial intelligence, to help ease the administrative burden and leave more time for medicine (Ontario Newsroom, 2024). But the college notes that more needs to be done to ensure all Ontarians have access to primary care. In addition to easing the administrative burden, the college recommended creating a team-based model of primary care in which family doctors work closely alongside a team of other expert providers to free up the physician’s time for patients who need it most (OCFP, 2023). In such a context, PAs can serve as a crucial support by expanding access to primary care and improving patient outcomes. 


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