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

Shannon Claypool, president of the Cloverdale Rodeo & Exhibition Association, stands outside the Cloverdale Rec. Centre. The rec. centre has been set up as a mass vaccination site by Fraser Health and the Association has decided to cancel the rodeo in order to offer the fairgrounds for public parking. (Submitted)
Cloverdale Rodeo cancelled

Fairgrounds to be used as public parking for mass vaccination site at Cloverdale Rec. Centre

Surrey city council chambers. (File photo)
Surrey drugstores seeking relaxation of spacing rules ‘a challenge,’ councillor says

‘Obviously we need pharmacies but it seems to me that we are getting an awful lot of applications,’ Brenda Locke says

News Bulletin file photo
Surrey waives outdoor patio fees for pubs, restaurants

Anita Huberman, CEO of the Surrey Board of Trade, praised the move

RCMP. (Phil McLachlan - Black Press Media file)
Man charged after pushing pregnant woman to the ground in Surrey, police say

Surrey RCMP say it appeared to be an ‘unprovoked assault’

A sign posted to a tree in Maccaud Park urges people to email White Rock City Council and oppose the construction of pickleball courts in the park. (Contributed photo)
White Rock council deems Maccaud Park pickleball courts out of bounds

Unanimous vote against constructing courts follows public feedback

Burnaby MLA Raj Chouhan presides as Speaker of the B.C. legislature, which opened it spring session April 12 with a speech from the throne. THE CANADIAN PRESS
B.C. NDP promises more health care spending, business support in 2021 budget

John Horgan government to ‘carefully return to balanced budgets’

B.C. Finance Minister Selina Robinson speaks in the B.C. legislature, March 2, 2021. (Hansard TV)
B.C. NDP ministers defend ‘air tax,’ latest COVID-19 business aid

Empty home tax doesn’t apply to businesses, but space above them

In Ontario, COVID-19 vaccine clinics have been set up at local mosques. (Submitted photo: Rufaida Mohammed)
Getting the vaccine does not break your fast, says Muslim COVID-19 task force

Muslim community ‘strongly’ encouraging people to get their shot, whether or not during Ramadan

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

A plane is seen through the window on the tarmac of Vancouver International Airport as the waiting room is empty. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
100+ international travellers who landed in B.C. refused to quarantine

The Public Health Agency of Canada says it issued $3,000 violation tickets to each

A health-care worker holds up a vial of the AstraZeneca Covishield vaccine at a COVID-19 vaccination clinic in Montreal, Thursday, March 18, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson
PHAC receives first report of blood clot linked to AstraZeneca

The federal agency says the person is now recovering at home

A real estate sign is pictured in Vancouver, B.C. THE CANADIAN PRESS Jonathan Hayward
1 in 3 young Canadians have given up on owning a home: poll

Data released Monday says 36% of adults younger than 40 have given up on home ownership entirely

Dr. Bonnie Henry gives her daily media briefing regarding Covid-19 for the province of British Columbia in Victoria, B.C, Monday, December 7, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
B.C. urges people to stay in their neighbourhoods, discourages out-of-household meet-ups

Dr. Bonnie Henry says there should be no travel, even to the next city over

Looking east at the Cascade Range with the potential Alpine Village site in the foreground. Mt. Archibald rises on the left.
Ambitious all-season mountain resort proposed near Chilliwack

Proponents say Bridal Veil Mountain Resort could cover 11,500 acres bring in $252 million a year

Most Read