Skip to main content
News Release
April 19, 2022

Fixing wait times, mental health and doctor shortages in Thunder Bay, priorities as June election nears

THUNDER BAY, Ont., April 19, 2022—Residents of Thunder Bay and surrounding communities are waiting longer than recommended for knee surgeries, MRIs and long-term care placements compared to Ontarians in other parts of the province, and Ontario’s doctors have a plan to address these issues.

Province-wide, about 29 per cent of Ontarians receiving knee surgery waited longer than provincial targets, according to the latest public data from Ontario Health, and 63 per cent of Ontarians waited longer than recommended for MRIs.

In Thunder Bay however, 32 per cent of people waited longer for knee surgery and 65 per cent waited longer for an MRI.

Provincial guidelines recommend knee surgeries be performed within 42 to 182 days from the time of decision to surgery, depending on how urgent the procedure is considered. It’s recommended MRIs be provided within two to 28 days, depending on the urgency.

Seniors in Thunder Bay are also waiting much longer than the provincial average to get into a long-term care facility in the region’s Local Health Integration Network. They waited 189 days, compared to the provincial average of 149 days, according to the most recent public data from Health Quality Ontario.

“People across Ontario are waiting longer for surgeries and MRIs than the province’s own recommendations, and the wait times are even longer for patients here in Thunder Bay,” said Dr.  Stephen Viherjoki, 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 Thunder Bay.

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.

Residents of the Thunder Bay 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 two of four area ridings: Thunder Bay-Atikokan and Thunder Bay-Superior North.
  • Access to COVID vaccines was the top concern in Kenora-Rainy River and Kiiwetinoong.
  • Men under 25 and those 65 and older are the most engaged demographic on the topic in those 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. The Thunder Bay area needs about 70 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 further information:
Leslie Shepherd
Director, Earned and social media
Ontario Medical Association
media@oma.org