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Aging baby boomers eating up physician resources with chronic illnesses: survey

OTTAWA – A survey of 12,000 doctors shows they are having a hard time dealing with aging baby boomers and their increasing caseload of chronic illness.

It’s the second national report in the space of a week warning that chronic illness is pushing Canada’s health-care system to the brink.

The National Physician Survey is conducted every few years by the College of Family Physicians and other doctors’ groups.

The most recent survey shows almost three quarters of respondents say their caseloads are taking up more of their time, and they blame chronic conditions, extra paper work, an aging population and increasing patient expectations.

The survey also shows that it is taking longer for patients who need urgent care to get in to see a doctor, compared to the previous survey done in 2007.

In 2010, doctors said 61 per cent of urgent patients were seen within a day _ but for non-urgent cases, patients had to wait an average three weeks, or 12 weeks for a specialist.

“Still, 58 per cent of doctors say they’re taking new patients, especially in Quebec and Saskatchewan.

“It’s positive to see access to care is improving with increasing numbers of physicians. However the growing demands on physicians’ time translates into access concerns that must be addressed,” said Robert Boulay, president of the College of Family Physicians of Canada.

“The health-care needs of aging baby boomers are being experienced by physicians across the country. We must prepare now for the full impact of this demographic shift while we continue to focus on the health-care needs of all other Canadians in the years ahead.”

Last week, a different network of medical professionals that monitors wait times warned that chronic-care patients are gumming up the entire hospital system. That’s because there aren’t enough services for chronic patients, so they take up hospital beds needed for acute-care or emergency-room patients.

Experts say the best way to deal with the growing numbers of chronic-care patients is to increase funding for long-term care facilities, home care and caregivers.

The warnings come as negotiations for a new federal-provincial health funding arrangement begin. The current health accord between Ottawa and the provinces and territories expires in 2014.

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