Thousands of Manitobans waiting for family doctor match
Manitoba is dealing with a backlog of requests to match residents with a family doctor.
The province tells CTV News there were close to 4,895 outstanding requests through the province’s Family Doctor Finder (FDF) at the end of August, about 695 of those are people who have chosen to wait.
The FDF is a service that uses information from a survey to put a family in touch with a suitable doctor or nurse practitioner who is taking new patients. The goal is to match as many registrants as possible within 30 days.
Between April and June of this year, there was a steep decline in matches done within 30 days. The FDF quarterly report shows about 32 per cent of matches were made in the second quarter, down from the normal 70 to 80 per cent.
The delay is related to the pandemic.
“Since March 2020, some health regions have had to redeploy Family Doctor Finder regional staff to support COVID-19 services within their health region,” reads a provincial statement. “This has affected wait times for processing requests.”
The provincial spokesperson told CTV News that redeployments are being addressed on a case-by-case basis due to the pandemic.
One Manitoban who did not want to be identified tells CTV News they and their family of four have been waiting for a doctor match since April 2020.
“We moved mid-April 2020 near Morden,” they said. “We have been looking for a family doctor since moving and get monthly email replies from MB Health stating they have been unable to find one.”
Another viewer told CTV News in an email that she had been trying to get a family doctor before her daughter’s 18-month vaccinations were due, she applied to the FDF and was told a match could take three to four weeks, which has since passed.
“And therefore, it seems my last resort to get her routine vaccination is to go to a walk-in clinic and get her checked out by a family doctor at a later date,” she wrote. “It’s been a long and frustrating process.”
When someone signs up for the FDF, an automated email is sent, noting there may be a delay in processing requests for a doctor match, and the FDF response could take more time if your request has not been prioritized by health care staff.
The email also tells people to head to an emergency room or urgent care centre when they have a serious medical need. If less urgent, the other options are walk-in clinics or calling HealthLinks if you’re unsure.
Dr. Kristjan Thompson, president of Doctors Manitoba, said in a time like this, it is very important people do not ignore their health, and that the organization is concerned about the backlog in making family doctor matches.
"We do understand that there is a need to redeploy staffing resources when you're in a public health crisis, we need to address this issue before it becomes a crisis of its own,” Thompson said.
The emergency room doctor hopes once more Manitobans are vaccinated and the pandemic settles, staff will return.
He has noticed more people coming into the ER with chronic conditions who say they are waiting to find a new doctor since theirs has moved away or retired.
“When you look at pre-pandemic (data), only 70 to 80 per cent of Manitobans were able to match up with a family doctor within 30 days,” Thompson said. “That tells me we still need more family doctors.”
Judy Friesen had the same family doctor for more than 20 years until this summer when she was notified that he was retiring from family medicine.
She said she is very happy for him.
"But I am kind of sad for me because that leaves me without a doctor in Manitoba at what appears to me to be a time when, it's probably not going to be an easy task finding a doctor,” she said.
She has started her search by calling clinics close to her home or doctors that friends have referred her to, but so far, no one is taking new patients.
"It's a very uncomfortable feeling to be without a doctor, I'll admit,” she said. “You know, I am healthy today and I am hoping tomorrow will be the same."
Friesen said using the FDF will be her last resort.
“I just feel like finding a doctor is more of a personal matter than submitting a request online and they match you with somebody.
The numbers supplied to CTV News Winnipeg show approximately 2,000 people register for the Family Doctor Finder each month.