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Healthc Policy. 2006 Jan;1(2):103-19.

Experiencing difficulties accessing first-contact health services in Canada: Canadians without regular doctors and recent immigrants have difficulties accessing first-contact healthcare services. Reports of difficulties in accessing care vary by age, sex and region.

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Health Analysis and Measurement Group, Statistics Canada, Ottawa, ON.


In this study, we identify the significant factors associated with having difficulties accessing first-contact healthcare services. Population-based data from two national health surveys, the Health Services Access Survey and the Canadian Community Health Survey, were used to identify respondents who required first-contact services for themselves or for a family member during 2003. Fifteen percent of Canadians reported difficulty accessing routine care, and 23% reported difficulties with immediate care. Physician/service availability was the chief reason cited for difficulties accessing routine care, while for urgent care, it was long wait times. Women, younger respondents and residents of eastern Canada and Quebec were consistently more likely to report difficulties accessing both types of these first-contact services, whereas less educated Canadians were less likely to report problems. Canadians without a regular family doctor were more than twice as likely to report difficulties accessing routine care compared to those who had a regular doctor. New immigrants were almost two and a half times more likely to report difficulties accessing immediate care than were Canadian-born respondents. Household income was not associated with difficulties accessing either type of care. The relatively low level of reporting of difficulties by older and less educated Canadians may be related, in part, to more modest expectations about the healthcare system.


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