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News release
May 25, 2022

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

KITCHENER, Ont., May 25, 2022 — Residents of Kitchener, Guelph and surrounding communities are waiting longer than recommended for cataract surgery and MRIs compared to Ontarians in other parts of the province, and Ontario’s doctors have a plan to address the issue.

Province-wide, about 32 per cent of Ontarians who receive cataract surgery waited longer than provincial targets, according to the latest public data from Ontario Health, along with 63 per cent who had MRIs.

In the Kitchener area, however, 86 per cent of people waited longer for cataract surgery and 58 to 69 per cent waited longer for MRIs, depending on where the procedure is performed and how urgently it is needed.

Provincial guidelines recommend cataract surgery be performed within 42 to 182 days from the time of decision to surgery, depending on how urgent the surgery is considered, and two to 28 days for MRIs.

“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 Kitchener, Waterloo, Guelph and nearby communities,” said Dr. David Schieck, chair of the local district of the Ontario Medical Association. “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 22 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 Kitchener and surrounding 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.

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 six of eight area ridings: Kitchener Centre, Kitchener-Conestoga, Waterloo, Cambridge, Guelph and Wellington-Halton Hills
  • Women and men are equally engaged in the issue, and they span all age groups

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. Kitchener and the surrounding areas including Waterloo, Guelph and other communities need about 115 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