About the progress report
Ontario’s doctors’ Prescription Progress Report 2023 is intended to track government actions taken to implement our 87 recommendations to hold decision-makers to account and highlight areas that need immediate focus as Ontario emerges from the pandemic.
Why a progress report?
We want Ontarians to feel reassured that doctors, the people they trust most to make decisions about the future of the health-care system, are leading the way in addressing the significant challenges they are encountering in getting the care they need.
It has been 18 months since we released our Prescription for Ontario — our comprehensive and integrated plan to fix the health-care system — and we want to deliver.
This progress report takes stock of what the government has done to address our recommendations, starts to identify what is left to do and issues a call to action for the most immediate priorities.
“Accessing and strengthening primary care, reducing wait times, addressing the administrative burden on physicians and dealing with burnout, expanding community care and supporting northern Ontario remain challenges for the profession. The OMA will continue to work with the government on solutions” — Dr. Andrew Park, OMA president and emergency department doctor, London, Ont.
We have tracked progress on each of the recommendations made by doctors and are pleased to report that the government has taken various levels of action on 51 of the OMA’s 87 solutions to rebuild the health-care system. To determine success, we compared years of government announcements — from committing funds to launching new programs and introducing and amending legislation — to our recommendations.
We have seen the government introduce new initiatives to make progress on reducing wait times, enhancing pandemic planning and increasing access to community care.
Commitments in the 2023 budget and Your Health: A Plan for Connected and Convenient Care focus on mental health, connecting people to convenient options closer to home, shortening wait times and growing the health-care workforce.
Where do we stand?
More to do
Still, there is a great deal more to do across all five pillars of the Prescription for Ontario.
Too many Ontarians do not have access to a family doctor. A study conducted by INSPIRE-PHC shows that as of March 2022, 2.2 million Ontarians were without a regular family doctor, an increase from 1.8 million in March 2020. According to the 2022-23 OMA member survey, four in 10 family physicians are considering retiring in the next five years. To prevent the doctor shortage from getting worse, we must do everything we can to retain as many of these physicians as possible. Many of them are experiencing record levels of burnout.
Family doctors also need additional support to care for the increasing number of patients in their offices with more complex health conditions.
More patients and physicians should benefit from a team-based model of care, which includes a combination of nurses, home-care co-ordinators and other health-care professionals providing care under the leadership of physicians.
Without a family doctor, it is very difficult for these individuals to navigate our health system and it limits their access to life-saving preventive-care measures — resulting in patients seeking help only when situations become dire, ending up at an emergency department. Additional internationally trained physicians also need to be assessed to enter the workforce faster.
Yet hospitals don’t have enough beds to treat acute-care patients because too many are occupied by people who are stable enough to leave but still need some level of care and there is no capacity in a more appropriate setting. Too many people have trouble accessing home care and community care. The government should enable equitable access to home and community services, allowing patients to remain in their preferred care setting, such as their home, for as long as possible.
Wait times remain long, meaning patients don’t have access to diagnostic tests and specialist care, including surgeries and procedures, when they need them. This is why it will be so important for the government to continue to collaborate with the OMA to implement plans for new integrated community health services centres.
“We really need to look at health-care needs from the perspective of the patient — what do they need; then the doctor — what will help them provide the best care for patients while staying healthy themselves; then the broader system — how do we increase its capacity in a sustainable and affordable fashion?” — Dr. Ross Male, family physician, Brantford, Ont.
Fixing Ontario’s health-care system will not be quick or easy.
The progress to date in fulfilling the recommendations in doctors’ Prescription for Ontario demonstrates that working together to improve health care for our families, our neighbours and our communities is possible. We thank the government for listening to Ontario’s doctors and making progress on our recommended solutions.
We urge the government to continue collaborating with us and implement all our recommendations in full. There is still much to achieve.
We will continue to monitor the government’s progress.
We will also consult broadly and bring together the collective expertise of physicians and other key stakeholders to find real and lasting solutions to fix the crisis in primary care, address physician burnout and expand and integrate community-based care.
We will leave no stone unturned as we continue to lead the way for physicians, patients, other health professionals, policymakers and decision-makers in achieving better health care for Ontarians.
Better health care starts here.