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

1914
It happened this week in 1914

April 18 - 24: Compiled by Dave Humphrey from the archived newspapers held at the Cranbrook History Centre and Archives

While pharmacies across B.C. are using AstraZeneca for public immunizations for people 40 years of age and older, there is no availability currently in the Kootenays. (AP Photo/Frank Augstein)
No AstraZeneca vaccine availability in Kootenay pharmacies, says Interior Health

Vaccine has been opened up at pharmacies in other areas of the province to people 40 years of age and older

Balsamroot, pictured here, can be found on Sunflower Hill in the Kimberley Nature Park, Eager Hill, Wycliffe Buttes, and many other areas across the Rocky Mountain Trench. (Paul Rodgers file)
Spring’s yearly spectacle of balsamroot

Ever year in May, balsamroot emerges for a brief showy period

Today, on April 22, over 1 billion people will come together – virtually – to mark Earth Day.(Pixabay)
Earth Day 2021: a time to reflect

By Ruth Kamnitzer Today, on April 22, over 1 billion people will… Continue reading

A woman wears a protective face covering to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 as she walks past the emergency entrance of Vancouver General Hospital in Vancouver, B.C., Friday, April 9, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
54 more cases of COVID-19 in Interior Health

Thirty-two people in the region are in hospital with the virus, 11 of them in intensive care

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and United States President Joe Biden smile as they say farewell following a virtual joint statement in Ottawa, Tuesday, February 23, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Trudeau pledges to cut emissions by 40% to 45% by 2030, short of U.S. goal

Trudeau announced target during a virtual climate summit convened by U.S. President Joe Biden

BC Hydro released a survey Thursday, April 22. It found that many British Columbians are unintentionally contributing to climate change with their yard maintenance choices. (Pixabay)
Spend a lot of time up-keeping the yard? You may be unintentionally contributing to climate change

Recent BC Hydro survey finds 60% of homeowners still use gas-powered lawnmowers and yard equipment

Journal de Montreal is seen in Montreal, on Thursday, April 22, 2021. The daily newspaper uses a file picture of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau dressed in traditional Indian clothing during his trip to India to illustrate a story on the Indian variant of the coronavirus. Paul Chiasson/The Canadian Press
Montreal newspaper blasted for front-page photo of Trudeau in India

Trudeau is wearing traditional Indian clothes and holding his hands together in prayer beside a caption that reads, ‘The Indian variant has arrived’

Nanaimo RCMP say a man was injured while pouring gunpowder on a backyard fire in Harewood on Wednesday, April 21. (File photo)
Nanaimo man hospitalized after pouring gunpowder onto backyard fire

RCMP investigating explosion in Harewood also came across a still for making alcohol on property

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry arrives for briefing on the COVID-19 situation, B.C. legislature, Oct. 26, 2020 (B.C. government)
B.C. sees 1,006 COVID-19 cases Thursday, ‘alarming’ 502 in hospital

Vaccine bookings for people aged 60 and older set to start

Shannon Zirnhelt, from left, her son Lockie, 3, Julia Zirnhelt, 13, and Ella Krus, 13, co-founders of Third Planet Crusade are featured in a music video set to air on Earth Day, April 22, 2021. (Monica Lamb-Yorski photo - Williams Lake Tribune)
B.C.-made music video launched in time for Earth Day 2021

Singer songwriter Shannon Zirnhelt worked with Third Planet Crusade on the project in the Cariboo

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

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good
Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

Most Read