Why does it take so long to get an appointment with my family doctor?

The comments section is closed.

  • Petrisor Ispas says:

    It is a stupid socialist system where the patient does not have the authority to choose their own family doctor but Health Canada distributes patients as they see fit. Doctors do not actually have to work or prove anything to their own patients. They get the money anyhow. If you look at those Europeans top of the list systems, that is not the case. A better doctor that is willing to work has more patients. The one that does not care about his patients and their emergencies will soon have none.

  • frustrated says:

    I was refused an appointment with my family doctor, told there were no openings for the following week either. Told to come as a “walk-in” or go to emerg.
    Went to emerg and was treated horribly, made to feel an inch tall for bothering them, and result was direction I know is incorrect. Am I going to argue with a rude doctor who obviously does not want to hear it? Hardly.
    Went back to FD on Monday, closed for “emergency”. Went back again today as “walk-in” office full of people coughing and sneezing. I could not stay. Typical dispute with receptionist when I asked why I couldn’t get an appointment for over a week and a half, and wasn’t even offered one. Response is “it’s not my fault” and “That is a typical amount of time for an appointment anywhere”, “You have to line up and wait your turn”. I could not stay. I could not risk the germs, and have to work.
    We are now at seven days after I called asking to see the doctor. I have not been offered an appointment. Just more lining up for hours to see my own FD.
    Big sign outside saying “Accepting New Patients”.
    What’s going on?

  • jas says:

    my bones , lower back and knee hurting really bad, i have made oppaitment it got canceled the day i went to see my family doctor and i got told sorry your family doctor has family urgent emergency so they re-booked my oppaitment in 3 weeks where im in a lot of pain i cant sleep and i have to go to work with all the pain

  • Gerry Goldlist says:

    Doctors do not control the system. The duly elected representatives of the patients created this health care system. We are not responsible for it, but just doing the best we can.

  • David WIlliams says:

    This article describes some issues/problems but doesn’t challenge physicians to do anything about access.

    Isn’t it time for the profession to get a handle on this issue which is essentially one of practice management? Why aren’t professional groups trying to show physicians how access can be improved, patient relationships managed and service improved in a manner that promotes patient-centered care?

    If the profession does not grip this problem, the public and governments will start demanding changes and that might not be a very positive experience.

  • Joshua Tepper says:

    Dear Realism Man,

    The good news is that Family Medicine is alive, well and thriving. Another recent article on HD.CA which I helped author highlights that interest in Family Medicine by future doctors is actually at an all time high this year ( We also know that in Ontario alone the vast majority of Family Doctors (over 9,000) are in a comprehensive family medicine practice. Similarly we see Family Physicians eagerly applying, in fact having to wait, to join comprehensive models of care. These comprehensive practices have enrolled millions of Ontarians. None of this should devalue the important role that Family Physicians with a focused interest play in our system however the role of a Family Physician doing comprehensive practice remains vital, heavily pursued and passionately practiced….anything but a dead end.

    • R Man says:

      That’s a lot of rhetoric.

      Ontario is not the whole country.

      There has been no study showing the fates of family medicine trainees. From my experience, and it is just that, they go on to work non-office-based roles.

      If a family doc wants to obtain deeper understanding and specialist expertise in a subject, the doors are closed to him save for a few unpopular fields like psychiatry and pathology. But if he wants to be an ENT or ophthalmologist? Forget it.

      • Joshua Tepper says:


        There actually are longitudinal studies that have been published and similarly there is data about the number of family physicians in comprehensive practice in different jurisdictions. I have provided the numbers for Ontario (over 9,00) which are the vast majority and similar data is available in other places.

        The issue of life long flexibility in career training is actually a different issue from whether Family physicians are doing comprehensive care (rather than non-office based roles) and it is an issue that is relevant to all disciplines. It is a thoughtful and important point. Each jurisdiction takes a different approach. Ontario does have a number of re-entry training positions across a broad number of specialities, BC and AB have also traditionally offered additional opportunities for procedural training for Family Physicians (they do often come with Return of Service provisions).

      • Realism M says:

        Ah, but life-long career training flexibility is directly related to family medicine under-recruitment.

        I would have certainly considered family medicine as a career had it not been for the provision that once matched to CaRMS, one is forever barred from applying again (except for in the second round, and let’s be honest, there’s nothing good in the second round). Lots of medical students and current specialist residents share my concerns.

        Having re-entry positions that are limited in practice opportunity (only fields deemed “in need” by the MOH ) and attached to punitive return-of-service agreements is not a solution. If anything it seems like a Faustian bargain invented to keep physicians from re-training once they’re providing care. Not to mention Ontario requires one work in their first field for at least a year before being eligible to apply for a re-entry position, and what you have is very limited career advancement opportunities for all physicians. Medical students know this, and know that they have one shot, so they avoid family medicine in favor of specialties.

    • Mike Franklyn says:


      It’s Mike Franklyn from Sudbury. I met you yesterday @ CPSO Council. I wanted to say again how much I enjoyed your talk. I was also very impressed with Danielle and the passion and candour with which she delivered her message.

      I am the Academic Rep for NOSM @ the CPSO and am very interested in developing my knowledge about the quality principles/initiatives about which you spoke. I’ve been perusing the the website this morning. You had mentioned a couple of TED talks and resources yesterday …. would you mind sending me those?

      Looking forward to learning about this exciting initiative

      Mike Franklyn MD CCFP

      • Joshua Tepper says:

        Hi Mike

        Thank you so much for this kind feedback.

        I will connect with you directly to offer some thoughts on various resources.

        So glad you are enjoying the HD.CA website!


  • Realism man says:

    The family medicine recruitment trend hasn’t reversed.

    Most people who go into family medicine practice strictly ER, walk-in, sports or some other subfacet of primary care. Few do Marcus Welby-style office practice.

    The real answer to why it takes so long for the patient to see the doctor is because the general medical license no longer has any use, restricting “family medicine” to those who do the two-year residency. To do so, one must sacrifice future specialization opportunities forever (for most, you can only match to a residency once). As such, family med is a career dead end.


Paul Taylor


Paul Taylor is a health journalist and former Patient Navigation Advisor at Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre, where he provided advice and answered questions from patients and their families. Paul will continue to write occasional columns for Healthy Debate.

Republish this article

Republish this article on your website under the creative commons licence.

Learn more