On the eve of the one-year declaration of the COVID-19 global pandemic, a new survey by the Canadian Medical Association (CMA) shows high levels of anxiety and fatigue among physicians.
The survey explored the impact of the ongoing pandemic on the health of physicians, noting respondents’ fatigue has increased by 69% over the last year, with 64% experiencing anxiety around the pandemic.
“Like all health care professionals, physicians are feeling the stress of the last 365 days. And while they’re suffering, very few are seeking help. Suffering in silence is so detrimental; we have more work to do to break down the barriers preventing physicians and other health care workers from seeking support when they need it,” says Dr. Ann Collins, CMA president.
Canada’s poor vaccine rollout among the top contributing factors
When asked on what is contributing negatively to their mental health, respondents indicated that longer time with social restrictions (64%), continued uncertainty about the future (63%) and concerns about vaccine rollout (62%).
Overall, 81% of respondents consider an efficient vaccine distribution strategy to be a key priority in responding to the pandemic with over half giving the current rollout poor marks. Physicians surveyed point to key challenges in vaccine rollout, including vaccine supply (93%), clear direction on priority groups that should be prioritized for vaccination (52%), and engagement of physicians in vaccine rollout and delivery (39%).
“The vaccine rollout is the light at the end of the tunnel for Canadians, including doctors, whose mental health has been battered by this pandemic,” adds Dr. Collins. “Despite the heroic efforts and guidance from our public health colleagues and health workers, we’re off to a rocky start with the rollout — not getting this right is not an option.”
The survey also explored governments’ handling of the pandemic. Over half of respondents rated provincial and territorial governments poorly in managing the vaccine rollout and 61% rated the federal government’s vaccine supply strategy as poor or very poor.
The survey was completed by 1,648 practising physicians between Feb. 18 and 22, 2021.