TORONTO, Oct. 16, 2023 — Ontario’s doctors are meeting with cabinet ministers and MPPs from all parties at Queen’s Park today to discuss immediate solutions for the most urgent health-care issues.
The president of the Ontario Medical Association along with dozens of front-line physicians from across the province will present solutions to:
These solutions are detailed in an update to the OMA’s roadmap for fixing the cracks in the health-care system, Prescription for Ontario: Doctors’ Solutions for Immediate Action.
“It will take time to fix the strains on the health-care system that have ballooned over the years under governments of all parties,” said OMA President Dr. Andrew Park. “But we must start somewhere. And we must start now. While our 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: Doctors’ 5-Point Plan for Better Health Care.”
Ontario’s doctors have scheduled meetings today with Health Minister Sylvia Jones, Finance Minister Peter Bethlenfalvy, the ministers of infrastructure and red tape reduction, senior staff from the premier’s office, all three opposition leaders and the Liberal and NDP health critics.
The OMA’s solution for the crisis in primary care is to ensure every Ontarian has a family doctor and a well-co-ordinated health-care team supporting them when and where they need it. Only 30 per cent of family doctors practise with government-funded team-based support, meaning two-thirds do not.
In addition to a physician, nurse and administrator, these teams should include at least two other inter-professional care providers, such as a social worker, registered dietitian, nurse practitioner, physiotherapist, pharmacist or mental health professional.
“Investing in primary care, where each member of the team has a unique set of skills that complement one another, rather than compete with one another, is perhaps the single most important step the government could take,” said Dr. Park. “Rather than splintering a patient’s care among disconnected health professionals, let’s build a strong care team that allows doctors to be doctors, nurses to be nurses, and have other health professions focus on what they do best for patients. Together, we can ensure patients are getting the best care possible.”
The OMA is also calling for a workforce strategy to deal with the acute shortage of physicians in rural and northern Ontario, as well as licensing more internationally educated physicians.
The second solution is to address the growing administrative burden, which physicians estimate eats up more than 10 hours a week. Family doctors surveyed by the Ontario College of Family Physicians reported it was twice that much. The administrative burden and a lack of a co-ordinated and connected health system that puts the patient at the centre, are the leading causes of physician burnout.
The OMA recommends creating a centralized intake and referral system for diagnostic and surgical procedures where patients can choose the shortest wait time in their area or a preferred surgeon or specialist, based on known wait times. Family physicians would no longer have to contact specialists in their area one by one to find someone who can treat their patient in an appropriate timeframe while completing different specialists’ intake forms each time.
The OMA also calls for the streamlining and elimination of more government forms and limits on employers’ requirements for sick notes. It says the government should explore the use of artificial intelligence scribes to document patient visits in real-time and free up physicians to focus on the patient.
The third solution is to expand home and community care and tackle hospital overcrowding. Far too many Ontarians are occupying a significant number of hospital beds when they could be more appropriately cared for elsewhere.
Ontario’s doctors recommend appropriately funding home care and home-care providers, expanding programs that provide hospital-level care in patients’ homes, providing long-term care homes with equipment to prevent unnecessary hospital transfers (such as IVs and mobile diagnostic imaging) and ensuring all Ontarians have access to palliative care when they need it.
“Our road ahead will be challenging, but addressing these issues is not insurmountable,” said Dr. Park. “The OMA looks forward to working with the provincial government on co-designing the future of the health-care system.”
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, at media@OMA.org or 647-300-1753.