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Doctor Shortage Getting Worse

(Queen's Park Report - May 21, 2008) Canada prides itself on being a nation that provides adequate healthcare to its citizens. However, today in Ontario there is growing concern over a decrease in the number of practicing physicians.  Millions of Ontarians live without a family doctor while the number of communities seeking designation as underserviced areas (meaning they get funding from the province to help recruit doctors) continue to increase; it is clear that this problem is only getting worse.

 

Since 2002, Ontario has, unlike any other province, been experiencing a decline in the total physician to population ratio.  Figures outlined by the Canadian Institute for Health Information (CIHI) indicate that in 2006, Ontario experienced a net loss of 49 doctors to other provinces, a figure which triples the losses from 2005. Still in November of 2007 figures showed that Ontario continued to lose doctors.

We have to ask ourselves, why has this problem not been alleviated? Why is the doctor shortage continuing to get worse?

In 2003, Dalton McGuinty took office and heartedly promised that he would solve the doctor shortage. Results indicate, however, that his efforts have fallen far from expectations and his policies in actuality seem to be doing the reverse, driving doctors out of Ontario instead of in.

Despite continual efforts to urge the Premier to take immediate action in both retaining and recruiting more doctors, nothing has been done.

In Simcoe-Grey the problem is just as bad.  Thornbury and Wasaga Beach are two examples of communities that are underserviced.  New Tecumseth and Adjala-Tosorontio are in need of 23 physicians and as our population increases and with physician retirement on the horizon the problem is increasingly urgent.

Mr. McGuinty has had five years to introduce a solution, and still nothing has been put forward.  As a former Minister of Health, I can tell you there is great room for improvement. A plan-of-action that will ensure that Ontarians have better access to medial care is required. Initiatives, which have been supplied to Mr. McGuinty,  include: the introduction of a comprehensive, long-term physician recruitment strategy; initiating more efforts to repatriate Ontario doctors working in other provinces and abroad; attracting experienced doctors from outside of Canada through a comprehensive system to recognize their foreign credentials; defer debt repayment for Ontario medical residents; and, provide flexible alternatives to retirement to retain our most experienced physicians.

During my time as Health Minister I was able to launch the Rural Ontario Medical Program to help recruit and retain doctors.  I wrote the province's first Rural/Northern Hospital Strategy and as a government we opened the first new medical school in decades with the creation of the new Northern Ontario Medical School.

Mr. McGuinty ought to listen to healthcare professionals and put his shoulder to the wheel so we can avert longer lines for those needing a family doctor.

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