At least one Ottawa family physician is closing her practise citing burnout.

Dr. Alykhan Abdulla is an Ottawa-based physician. He says burnout is real and prevalent amongst all family doctors in the city.

“It is truly overwhelming; it’s a tsunami of proportions… My colleagues are burnt out, 100 per cent … They can’t handle their volume anymore.”

Abdulla says he spends hours a day on administrative work and can’t take on any new patients. He says his patients have complex needs and often require more time and care.

“One-point three million patients are orphaned in the province of Ontario. That means we need 1,300 more family doctors and if I start working less, you are going to need two, three, four thousand. It is going to get out of control.”

Abdulla says people can expect to wait “a decade” for a family doctor in Ottawa.

After a decade in family medicine, Dr. Nicole Shadbolt is closing up her practise.

“I decided for my own self preservation it was time for a change.”

The Ottawa-based doctor telling CTV News her family has an opportunity to live in Bangladesh for a few years. That’s part of the reason she’s shutting down- burn out is the other.

 “I’m not sure people realize how exhausted people in family medicine are,” she said. “I think what (the pandemic) did was magnify the fact. I don’t feel the government supports us and I don’t feel there’s support or relief coming and that is a tough thing to handle.”

The Ontario Medical Association reported nearly 75 per cent of doctors say they have experienced burnout in 2021, up from 66 per cent in 2020.

“Patients have increased expectations, we’re finding the system is not available to us in what it used to be to get us the testing and the treatments our patients need,” Shadbolt said. “We are spending more time trying to help people cope while they wait.”

With no replacement, her 1500 patients must search for a new doctor at a time where more and more family doctors have been pushed to their limit. 

July 8 is Shadbolt’s last day at Riverside Court Medical Clinic, but she hopes to return to family medicine in the future.

“I will always be a family doctor in my heart. Who knows what will come along and it’s the first time in my adult life that I haven’t had a plan which is kind of an interesting and unique experience,” she said.  

Another family physician says their practice is in jeopardy. Dr. Nili Kaplan-Myrth says family doctors are exhausted.

“Many are saying it has been a nightmare for the past two years, we have done our absolutely best to stay in practise and not burn out,” she says.

On top of working 60-plus hours a week, Kaplan-Myrth says she may have to close her practise in the Glebe.

Kaplan-Myrth says the province is moving towards a model for physicians to join Family Health Organizations (FHO), where those members are paid by salary and not per-patient-visit.

But Kaplan-Myrth says she does not meet all the criteria to join an FHO because she operates a smaller practice by herself in the core of the city which is not considered “high needs.”

“They sooner have me close my practice, move out to some suburb, than allow me to continue to practice here and provide me the same kinds of support and the same model of care as my colleagues who work out in places like Orléans, Bells Corners, or Nepean,” she says.

Kaplan-Myrth says she is faced with moving to a new office outside of the core, or creating her own family health organization at her own financial risk, with no guarantee of other doctors joining.

“We need some really support and we need to figure out how to ensure that all the doctors that do have practises and are able to continue without being stuck in fee-for service model.”

The Ontario Medical Association says they are working to address burnt and have created a task force.

The Ministry of Health says it is adding more than 400 undergraduate and post-graduate positions over the five years—the largest expansion, it says, in more than 10 years.

“This expansion will increase access to family and specialty physicians and other health care professionals in every corner of the province to ensure that Ontarians can access the health care they need, when they need it, wherever they may live,” a statement says.

The government says it has introduced “a range of initiatives” to help improve access to physician services throughout the province, including offering Ontario residency training to internationally-educated physicians in exchange for a commitment to practice medicine in communities other than Ottawa or Toronto, and supporting the development of distributed education placements, in order to increase the number of medical students and residents learning in smaller urban settings.