NIAGARA FALLS, ON, Aug. 16, 2015 /CNW/ - Ontario's doctors believe access to medical services is a key component to a vibrant community and one that is at risk due to cuts by the provincial government.
Ontario Medical Association President Dr. Mike Toth is attending the Association of Municipalities of Ontario conference this week to raise awareness about cuts to health care, as well as to listen to the concerns of municipal leaders.
"Convenient access to medical services is a key component of making any town or city a great place to live," Dr. Toth said. "Unfortunately, the provincial government has imposed measures in recent months that are affecting access to care across Ontario."
At a time when there are more than 800,000 Ontarians without a family doctor and 140,000 new residents are being added into our health care system every year, the government is cutting from 40 to 20 the number of spaces available each month for new family doctors to join group-based models of practice – the model in which new doctors are currently trained.
Doctors may only fill these spaces in groups in communities the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care have identified on a list as "areas of high physician need." There are more than 200 of these designated communities across the province on the list out of 444 municipalities in Ontario. The result is that places like Niagara-on-the-Lake, Belleville, Kirkland Lake and parts of Toronto are all vying for those 20 much-needed family doctors each month so being designated an area of high physician need will not make recruiting family doctors any easier.
"This is an example of an action by a government that doesn't understand what it means to put patients first. The reality is it doesn't matter if your community is considered high needs or not, this government has unilaterally implemented a number of actions that are going to make it more difficult to attract doctors to communities across the province," said Dr. Toth. "I've personally heard from a number of mayors and wardens who are concerned about what this will mean for their residents."
Over the course of the conference, Dr. Toth will be meeting with nearly two dozen municipalities who have concerns about access to medical services for their residents, physician recruitment and other local health issues. He is also speaking to the Northern Ontario Caucus at a lunch tomorrow.
Another change the government imposed was an arbitrary limit on the amount of medical services it will pay for annually. After the limit the government has set has been reached, doctors will either have to work for free, stop working, or the government will want to be reimbursed through clawbacks or some other mechanism.
"Doctors see the patients who come to their offices – we don't solicit them on the street. We provide care based on our patients' health and well-being. We aren't going to say no to delivering care, but shouldn't it be the government's responsibility to pay for it?" said Dr. Toth. "Imagine running your municipality or business that way – telling staff in a department they provided too much good service to the community and now they have to give back some of their pay."
The cuts and changes being imposed on doctors by the provincial government began to come into effect on Feb. 1 following the rejection of the government's last contract offer by Ontario's doctors. The OMA, on behalf of its 34,000 members, rejected the offer because they knew it would hurt patients.
The Ontario Medical Association (OMA) represents over 34,000 physicians and medical students across the province. Ontario's doctors work closely with patients to encourage healthy living practices and illness prevention. In addition to delivering front-line services to patients, Ontario's doctors play a significant role in helping shape health care policy, as well as implementing initiatives that strengthen and enhance Ontario's health care system.
SOURCE Ontario Medical Association
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