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News release
Jan. 25, 2024

Ontario’s doctors calling for action to stop more patients from losing access to primary care in Sault Ste. Marie

Jan. 25, 2024–Ontario’s doctors, represented by the Ontario Medical Association, are deeply concerned about the worsening crisis in primary care in northern Ontario.

The Group Health Centre in Sault Ste. Marie announced today that 10,000 patients will lose access to their family doctor as of May 31, due to a physician shortage and recruitment challenges. Another 6,000 patients may be at risk if trends continue.

“Primary care in Ontario is in crisis. What’s happening in Sault Ste. Marie is devastating,” said OMA President Dr. Andrew Park. “This is a preview of what’s to come across Ontario if we don’t take action now.”

While 2.3 million Ontarians do not have a family doctor, access to both primary and emergency care is especially challenging in northern and rural Ontario, where communities face profound physician shortages due to chronic recruitment and retention challenges.

Communities in northern Ontario are actively recruiting more than 350 physicians, including more than 200 family doctors, according to the Northern Ontario School of Medicine University. With half the physicians in northern Ontario expected to retire in the next five years, this situation will only worsen.

The Ontario Medical Association is calling on the provincial government to develop a physician workforce strategy to ease the doctor shortage in northern and rural Ontario.

Additionally, the Centre in Sault Ste. Marie is calling for emergency stabilization funding and other support.

“We’d like to see a rapid response from the government to address the urgent situation in Sault Ste. Marie,” said OMA CEO Kimberly Moran. “We are ready to work with government on long-term solutions to address the primary care crisis moving forward so that everyone in Ontario has access to a family doctor.”

The OMA has outlined what the government can do to address the family doctor shortage in the Prescription for Ontario: Doctors’ Solutions for Immediate Action. Other recommendations include expanding access to team-based care and reducing the burden of unnecessary administration facing doctors.

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:
Emily English
OMA media relations