There is no denying there is a need for more family doctors in Northeastern Ontario. The North East Local Health Integration Network area has 56,000 people without a family doctor. Something needs to be done to help attract doctors to care for those residents.
Unfortunately, the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care’s (MOH) recent release of areas of high physician need is not the magic bullet some believe it is.
With the province limiting to 20 per month the number of physicians who can join team-based models of practice (the models in which they are trained), it is not putting in place measures to attract physicians but rather placing further restrictions on new family doctors. Prior to the action imposed on Ontario’s doctors by the MOH Feb. 1, each month 40 family doctors were able to join Family Health Networks and Family Health Organizations across the province and now that number has been cut in half.
The MOH has narrowed down where those 20 doctors can go, but it has designated nearly 200 communities across the province as areas of high physician need. That means Chapleau, Elliot Lake, North Bay and Sudbury are competing with Kitchener, St. Catharines, Barrie and parts of Toronto for much-needed family doctors as the reality is there is a need for family doctors in communities across the province – whether they are on the list or not.
It is important to note, also included in the MOH’s imposed cuts is the removal of Continuing Medical Education funding or CME.
This cut has a significant impact on Northern Ontario physicians as CME was used as a recruitment and retention tool for northern and rural physicians. We are concerned that the removal of incentives to work in rural and remote areas will lead to problems with physician recruitment and retention.
Placing restrictions on doctors is not how we are going to attract new family doctors to care for the hundreds of thousands of people who don’t have one or new specialists to help keep wait times from getting longer.
The government needs to change its mandate so we can get back to the table to negotiate a fair agreement that puts patients first.
Dr. Mike Toth,
Ontario Medical Association