Doctors have the solutions to the most urgent health-system issues
As physicians, when patients look to us for help, our first step is to diagnose the problem and then determine a treatment plan. Similarly, with Ontario’s health-care system, we see the issues. We know the diagnosis because we live it every day.
Ontario’s doctors are committed to improving care and building a sustainable system for future generations.
We set out our initial plan to improve the province’s health-care system in 2021 with Prescription for Ontario: Doctors’ 5-Point Plan for Better Health Care. Our first document had 87 recommendations.
In spring 2023, we released our Presciption Progress Report 2023 and were pleased to share that action had been taken on 51 of our 87 recommendations. But there is still much left to do.
Through our most recent consultations with the public, stakeholders, physicians and our professional colleagues in other health professions, we have uncovered three urgent priorities that have risen to the top and require immediate action:
- Fixing the crisis in primary care to ensure everyone has access to a family doctor
- Addressing the growing burden of unnecessary administration
- Increasing community capacity and tackling hospital overcrowding
Far too many Ontarians, a staggering 2.2 million people, are without a family doctor. That is roughly the combined populations of London, Thunder Bay, Ottawa, Hamilton and Kingston without access to comprehensive preventive care.
That is a crisis.
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The strains on the health-care system have ballooned over the decades. It will take decades to fix these issues, but we must start somewhere. And we must start now
Doctors also continue to face crushing burnout and the problem is getting worse. We need our physicians focused on what they do best, providing excellent and compassionate care to Ontarians and their families. We need a system that focuses on patients, not paperwork. Sadly, we are not using modern technology consistently and in an integrated way. This needs to change.
At the same time, too many acute-care hospital beds are occupied by patients whose acute medical issues are stable and who could be discharged but lack the appropriate support in the community. We need to remove barriers to ensure people can access care in the right setting, including home care, long-term care and palliative care, ensuring they are co-ordinated and integrated into the rest of the system.
In the few months since we released these three immediate priorities in our Progress Report, we have convened physician leaders, all OMA district chairs, rural experts and several major stakeholders to develop a series of pragmatic solutions for each priority that will guide our advocacy efforts in the coming months.
The strains on the health-care system have ballooned over the decades. It will take decades to fix these issues, but we must start somewhere. And we must start now.
While these solutions will not solve every issue, taking Ontario doctors’ advice today will get the system out of crisis mode tomorrow. Then, we can shift our focus back to implementing the other transformative recommendations outlined in our original Prescription for Ontario.
The profound gaps in northern Ontario and other health inequities persist. Wait times are still too long. We still must strengthen public health to be better prepared for future pandemics. The number of patients presenting with mental health and addiction concerns is still growing at an alarming rate. We will continue to press for change on these important issues.
Our road ahead will be challenging, but addressing these issues is not insurmountable. On behalf of our members, the OMA is a key system leader and we take this responsibility seriously. We look forward to working with the provincial government on co-designing the future of the health-care system.
Together, we will turn our solutions into better health care for patients
Dr. Andrew Park
Solutions for immediate action
- Expanding access to team-based primary care for all Ontarians when and where they need it
- Building a northern and rural physician workforce strategy
- Creating a centralized intake and referral system
- Streamlining forms and reducing sick notes and referral letters
- Exploring the use of artificial intelligence scribes
- Improving Health Report Manager (the way physicians receive electronic patient reports)
- Appropriately funding home care and home-care providers
- Exploring and expanding programs that provide hospital-level care in patients’ homes
- Embedding care co-ordinators and home care within primary care and Ontario Health Teams
- Providing long-term care homes with equipment to prevent unnecessary hospital transfers
- Ensuring all Ontarians have access to palliative care when they need it