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Almost 75% of Ontario doctors experienced burnout during COVID-19 pandemic, survey says

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TORONTO — Surveys from the Ontario Medical Association suggest nearly three-quarters of physicians experienced at least some level of burnout when asked in 2021, up from 66 per cent the previous year.

The pair of surveys were conducted by the OMA’s burnout taskforce in March 2020 and March 2021.

The 2021 version took responses from 2,649 Ontario doctors, medical students and residents and saw burnout reported among 72.9 per cent of replies.

Read more: Ontario health-care workers struggle with burnout as economy poised to reopen

Nearly 35 per cent reported either persistent symptoms of burnout or feeling completely burned out in 2021, up from the 29 per cent seen in the March 2020 survey, which was conducted as the COVID-19 pandemic was first hitting North America.

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Dr. Adam Kassam, president of the OMA, says physician burnout has always been a problem, but it’s been exacerbated by the COVID-19 crisis.

Long work hours and time-consuming tasks, including completing documentation, were among the top reported reasons for burnout.

Read more: Front-line nurses suffering psychological distress, burn-out amid COVID-19: association

Physician burnout has been associated with increased depression, substance use and suicidal thoughts, the OMA says, and it may reduce productivity, increase turnover and possibly decrease patient access to care.

The organization released a report Wednesday saying COVID-19 has reinforced the need to find solutions to burnout among doctors, not only for their well-being, but also to ensure “sufficient health-care resources … to address the deficit of care caused by the pandemic.”

The OMA report contains solutions to address burnout among doctors, such as reducing and streamlining documentation, support for physician wellness at their workplaces and more work-life balance through flexible work arrangements.

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