A Canadian Medical Association survey was conducted on 1,648 practising physicians who responded between Feb. 18 and 22. (Black Press Media files)

A Canadian Medical Association survey was conducted on 1,648 practising physicians who responded between Feb. 18 and 22. (Black Press Media files)

Canadian doctors more tired, anxious due to COVID-19: survey

69% reported an increase in fatigue over the last year, 65% experienced pandemic-driven anxiety

Some of Canada’s doctors are feeling high levels of fatigue and anxiety one year into the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a survey by the Canadian Medical Association, and concern over the country’s vaccine rollout was listed as one of the main reasons.

The CMA survey, conducted on 1,648 practising physicians who responded between Feb. 18 and 22, found 69 per cent felt an increase in fatigue over the last year, with 65 per cent experiencing anxiety around the pandemic.

Canada’s vaccine rollout stalled through February as shipping delays affected supply of Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna’s products. But the rollout has ramped up in recent weeks as supply has been restored and new vaccines have been approved.

Dr. Jennifer Kwan, a family physician in Burlington, Ont., said she wasn’t surprised to see the high levels of fatigue and anxiety reported among doctors in the CMA survey, given her own experiences and conversations with peers over the last few months.

“If anything I’m surprised it wasn’t higher,” she said.

The survey results were released Wednesday, marking nearly one year since the World Health Organization labelled the COVID-19 crisis a global pandemic on March 11, 2020.

Sixty-two per cent of respondents said concerns about Canada’s vaccine rollout were contributing negatively to their mental health, while increased time with social restrictions (64 per cent) and continued uncertainty about the future (63 per cent) were the other top concerns.

Family physicians have felt additional stress of altering the care they can provide to patients since the pandemic started, Kwan says, and frustration has built recently as they’ve fielded calls and emails from patients about vaccine availability, without many clear answers to give them.

Thirty-nine percent of the CMA survey respondents said the lack of engagement with doctors in administering the vaccines has been one of the key challenges of the rollout. Concerns about vaccine supply topped the list at 93 per cent while not having clear direction on priority groups was also a popular answer (52 per cent).

Ontario announced Wednesday that family doctors in six regions — Toronto, Peel Region, Hamilton, Guelph, Peterborough, and Simcoe-Muskoka — will start administering COVID vaccines to patients aged 60-64 this weekend.

The rollout is expected to open up to more family doctors’ offices as supply grows, something Kwan has been waiting for.

“We want to be able to help our patients, and we know which ones are in need of it,” she said. “But I don’t have access to the vaccines to do that right now.”

CMA President Dr. Ann Collins says family doctors have been underutilized across the country during the rollout. While some physicians have volunteered or been recruited to help administer vaccines at clinics, the lack of immunization being done at their offices has been confounding, she adds.

“They’re in a prime position to talk to their patients about it and then deliver it,” she said.

Canada’s rollout, which began in mid-December, is lagging significantly behind several countries in doses administered per population.

Just over 5.3 per cent of Canadian residents had received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine as of Wednesday afternoon.

The recent approval of vaccines from Oxford-AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson is expected to allow Canada’s inoculation plan to expand in the coming weeks, however.

Dr. Sumon Chakrabarti,an infectious disease expert in Mississauga, Ont., says that while the percentage of doctors who reported fatigue and anxiety is alarming, there may be more reason for optimism now than there was last month, when the survey was conducted.

Chakrabarti says he’s noticed a shift among his own colleagues to a “bit more of a positive outlook.”

“We know that mental health is a huge issue in COVID, whether it’s for people in health care or people in the community,” he said. “But what I find interesting is right now, we’re in the best position we’ve been in since the beginning of the pandemic.”

While Chakrabarti acknowledged legitimate concerns with Canada’s rollout, he worries some people may be “disproportionately emphasizing the difficulties compared to the good parts.”

“We’re getting some good news — Johnson & Johnson (being approved), a million doses of vaccines delivered this week,” he said. “But then we’re also hearing the ongoing drumbeat — a third wave is coming, variants are here. That is taking the forefront of the messaging … and it can result in anxiety in health-care professionals and otherwise.”

Collins says the most striking result of the survey was that of the 65 per cent of respondents who reported increased anxiety, only 16 per cent indicated that they had sought help.

“This clearly shows us that we still have some barriers that we need to work on around physician health and wellness,” she said.

Coronavirus

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Rio Tinto BC Works General Manager Affonso Bizon receives his shot from Jordan Pacheco, a Rio Tinto paramedic. (Rio Tinto supplied photo)
60% of Rio Tinto’s eligible workforce have been administered COVID-19 vaccine

Immunization clinics within industrial sites are administering vaccines to workers 40 years or older

Gates will open at 8:30 p.m. with the first film starting around 9:15 p.m. - 9:30 p.m. (AFFNO file photo)
AFFNO hosts french film all weekend in the Kitimat-Stikine and Northcoast Region

AFFNO had to create different approaches this year to set up events

Radley Park and Hirsch Creek Park campgrounds will open on May long weekend but only for those who reside in the Northern or Interior Health regions. (Jacob Lubberts photo)
VIDEO: Kitimat camping still a go for May long weekend

Kitimat Campgrounds will still follow restriction put in place by PHO

UPDATE: Missing person found. (photo supplied)
UPDATE: missing person found – Kitimat local reported missing since May 2nd

If you have any information contact the local RCMP at (250) 632-7111

Rio Tinto donated $60,000 to BC Children’s Hospital as they look into the impact the pandemic has had on the mental health of young Canadians. (BC Children’s Hospital logo)
Rio Tinto supports BC Children’s Hospital mental health study

“This study will help us find out how we can better allocate mental health resources for youth”

(The Canadian Press)
Trudeau won’t say whether Canada supports patent waiver for COVID-19 vaccines

‘Canada is at the table to help find a solution’

A sign indicating face coverings are required by the establishment is pictured on the front door of a business in Vancouver, B.C., Friday, April 9, 2021. COVID-19 cases have been on a steady increase in the province of British Columbia over the past week. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
A sign indicating face coverings are required by the establishment is pictured on the front door of a business in Vancouver, B.C., Friday, April 9, 2021. COVID-19 cases have been on a steady increase in the province of British Columbia over the past week. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
B.C. to start releasing neighbourhood-specific COVID numbers after data leak

Documents obtained by the Vancouver Sun show cases broken down by neighbourhoods

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry and Health Minister Adrian Dix update B.C.’s COVID-19 situation at the B.C. legislature, April 29, 2021. (B.C. government)
B.C.’s COVID-19 case count creeps up, seven more deaths

445 people in hospital, 157 in intensive care

Summerland’s positive test rate is much higher than surrounding local health areas, according to internal BC CDC documents. (BC CDC)
Summerland 3rd behind Surrey, Abbotsford in daily per capita COVID-19 cases

Interior Health is rolling out additional vaccine availability to the community

Amazon is pausing its Prime Day marketing event in Canada this year amid ongoing COVID-19 outbreaks at its facilities in Ontario. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Amazon Prime Day halted in Canada due to COVID-19 outbreaks in warehouses

The event was postponed to protect the health and safety of employees and customers, the company says

Ally Thomas, 12, seen in an undated family handout photo, died on April 14 from a suspected overdose. Her family says they are frustrated more public supports weren't available when they tried to get her help. THE CANADIAN PRESS
Minister says suspected overdose death of 12-year-old pushing B.C. to ‘do better’

Minister Sheila Malcolmson of Mental Health and Addictions says the government is working ‘as hard as we can’ to build a system of care for youths

At this Highway 3 check point, police officers will be asking for identification from drivers, documentation regarding the driver’s name and address, and the purpose for the driver’s travel. (RCMP)
No fines handed out at 1st COVID-19 roadblock as checks move across B.C.

Cpl. Chris Manseau says a total of 127 vehicles were stopped at a roadblock in the Manning Park area

A spectator looks on as the Olympic Caldron is relit in downtown Vancouver, Wednesday, February 12, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Small majority of B.C. residents in favour of a Vancouver 2030 Olympic bid: survey

A new survey shows a split over the possibility of public money being spent to organize and host the winter games

Junior A team Coquitlam Express is offering all Tri-City residents who get vaccinated against COVID-19 a free ticket to one of their games. (Facebook/Coquitlam Express)
B.C. hockey team offering free tickets to hometown fans who get the COVID-19 vaccine

‘We know the only way to get fans back is people getting vaccinated,’ says Express’ general manager Tali Campbell

Most Read