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News release
May 2, 2022

Fixing wait times, mental health and doctor shortages in the Sudbury area, priorities as June election nears

SUDBURY, Ont., May 2, 2022—Residents of Sudbury and other northern Ontario communities are waiting longer than recommended for MRIs and some surgeries compared to Ontarians in other parts of the province, and Ontario’s doctors have a plan to address the issue.

In the Sudbury area, 48 per cent of patients undergoing cataract surgery waited longer than provincial targets, 11 per cent waited longer for heart bypass surgeries and 76 per cent waited longer for an MRI.

In Timmins, 38 per cent of patients waited longer than provincial targets for knee surgery and 67 per cent waited longer for an MRI, while in North Bay, 82 per cent of patients waited longer than the target for an MRI.

Province-wide, about 63 per cent of Ontarians receiving MRIs waited longer than provincial targets, according to the latest public data from Ontario Health, which recommends getting an MRI within two to 28 days depending on how urgent the procedure is considered.

Across Ontario, eight per cent of Ontarians are receiving heart bypass surgery outside target times, 63 per cent are waiting longer for MRIs, 32 per cent for cataract surgery and 29 per cent for knee surgery.

Provincial guidelines recommend knee and cataract surgeries be performed within 42 to 182 from the time of decision to surgery, depending on urgency, 14 to 90 days for heart bypass, and two to 28 days for MRIs.

“Patients in Sudbury and other communities across northern Ontario have a lack of access to diagnostic tests like MRIs, to surgery – including life-saving surgery — mental health supports and basic primary care, which is the foundation to a healthy community,” said Dr. Stephen Cooper, chair of the local Ontario Medical Association district. “Physicians and other health-care workers are doing everything they can to get patients the care they need, but they need help from the province.”

As Ontarians prepare to go to the polls June 2, wait times and clearing the backlog of 21 million medical services built up during the pandemic are among the top issues. An Ipsos survey conducted for the OMA found Ontarians want the government to prioritize clearing the pandemic backlog, even if it means a short-term impact on economic recovery.

When asked by Ipsos to identify the issue most important to them, 40 per cent of Ontarians chose addressing COVID-19, followed by 10 per cent who said access to health care/long wait times/understaffed hospitals. Seven per cent said economic growth should be the government priority.

Another survey conducted for the OMA found that reducing wait times and investing in hospitals, clinics and health-care facilities were key priorities to improve health care in Sudbury and neighbouring communities. 

To help solve the wait times issue, the OMA recently released a report recommending the adoption of Integrated Ambulatory Centres, publicly funded, free standing centres that could perform less complex surgeries and procedures on an outpatient basis and relieve the pressure on hospitals.

Seniors in Sudbury are also waiting longer than the provincial average to get into a long-term care facility in the region’s Local Health Integration Network. They waited 178 days, compared to the provincial average of 149 days, according to the most recent public data from Health Quality Ontario.

Residents of the region are also concerned about mental health and addiction, according to ASI, a market research firm that uses artificial intelligence methodology to obtain insights into public discussions on social media.

Among ASI’s findings:

  • Mental health and addiction are the top health-care topics in which people are most engaged in five of eight area ridings: Sudbury, Nickel Belt, Nipissing, Sault Ste. Marie and Mushkegowuk-James Bay.
  • Men and women spanning all age groups are engaged on the topic across those five ridings.

Ontario also needs more doctors to help address the issues residents are concerned about and fill gaps in the health-care system that were exacerbated during the pandemic. Sudbury and surrounding northern communities including North Bay, Sault Ste. Marie, Timmins and Cochrane need about 150 more doctors, according to Health Force Ontario, which posts job openings for physicians.

Ontario’s doctors have made sweeping recommendations for clearing the backlog, fixing wait times, easing the doctor shortage and addressing mental health and addiction in Prescription for Ontario: Doctors’ 5-Point Plan for Better Health Care. The OMA has called on all political parties to adopt the Prescription’s 87 recommendations to strengthen the health-care system as part of their platforms for the June 2 election. 


About the OMA

The Ontario Medical Association represents Ontario’s 43,000-plus physicians, medical students and retired physicians, advocating for and supporting doctors while strengthening the leadership role of doctors in caring for patients. Our vision is to be the trusted voice in transforming Ontario’s health-care system.

For more information, please contact:
Leslie Shepherd, OMA Director of Earned and Social Media