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News release
May 30, 2022

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

TORONTO, May 24, 2022—Residents of Ottawa and surrounding communities are waiting longer than recommended for knee, hip and heart bypass surgeries compared to Ontarians in other parts of the province, and Ontario’s doctors have a plan to address the issue.

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, along with 43 per cent who had hip surgery.

In the Ottawa area however, between 42 and 74 per cent of people waited longer for knee surgery and 83 per cent waited longer for hip surgery, depending on where the procedure was performed and how urgently it was needed.

Provincial guidelines recommend knee and hip surgeries be performed within 42 to 182 days from the time of decision to surgery, depending on how urgent the procedure is considered.

  • For cataract surgery, about 32 per cent of Ontarians waited longer than the recommended 42 to 182 days, while 24 to up to 49 per cent of patients in the Ottawa area waited longer depending on the location.
  • For heart bypass surgery, about eight per cent of Ontarians waited longer than the recommended 14 to 90 days, while 24 per cent of patients in the Ottawa area waited longer.
  • For MRIs, about 63 per cent of Ontarians waited longer than the recommended two to 28 days, while in Ottawa, the longer than recommended wait times ranged from 52 to 95 per cent depending on the location.

“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 Ottawa and nearby communities,” said Dr. Christine Tai, 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 almost 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 Ottawa 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.

Seniors in Ottawa are also waiting longer than the provincial average to get into a long-term care facility. They waited 156 days, compared to the provincial average of 149 days, according to the most recent public data from Ontario Health.

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: Ottawa Centre, Carleton, Nepean, Orleans and Kanata-Carleton.
  • Women 25 and under, men 25 to 44 and women 65 and over are the most engaged demographic on those topics in 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. Ottawa and surrounding areas including Nepean and Kanata need about 158 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