U.S. Doctor Shortage Threatens Access to Care in Ontario



    New OMA president calls for retention program to ensure province does not
    lose more doctors

    TORONTO, April 30 /CNW/ - Dr. Janice Willett, the 126th president of the
Ontario Medical Association (OMA), warned physician leaders from across
Ontario about the growing doctor shortage south of the border. In her
inaugural speech, Dr. Willett, a gynecologist from Sault Ste. Marie and the
first female president from Northern Ontario, stressed the need for Ontario to
be an attractive and competitive place for doctors to practice as competition
for Canadian-trained doctors intensifies with the U.S. doctor shortage
expected to grow to 200,000 by 2020.
    "Ontario is facing unprecedented competition for our doctors as
neighboring provinces, states and countries all deal with significant doctor
shortages," said Dr. Willett. "While the provincial government has taken steps
to address the province-wide shortage, we need a comprehensive retention
strategy to encourage our new and experienced physicians to stay in practice
in Ontario and a plan to make the province attractive to other
Canadian-trained doctors."
    Recent studies have shown that Ontario is losing its competitive edge
when it comes to recruiting and retaining doctors. In 2005, Ontario
experienced a net loss of 14 doctors to other provinces, for the first time in
recent memory, while jurisdictions like B.C. and Alberta gained new doctors.
In addition, there are over 9,000 Canadian-trained doctors practicing in the
U.S.
    According to the latest OMA report, Ontario is short 2,000 doctors,
affecting one million adults and 130,000 children. In addition to the current
shortage, our physician population is aging and we could stand to lose 2,500
doctors if those who are over 65 choose to retire at the traditional
retirement age. The OMA believes that steps must be taken to ensure physicians
have an incentive to continue to care for patients for a few additional years
to prevent the doctor shortage from getting worse.

    Speaking at the OMA's Annual General Meeting this weekend, attended by
over 200 physician leaders, Dr. Willett outlined several priorities that she
will focus on during her term as president, including:

    
    1.  Calling on government to implement a comprehensive retention strategy
        and to ensure Ontario is competitive with other jurisdictions that
        are also competing for Canadian-trained doctors.

    2.  Increasing awareness about the need to fund health information
        technology such as Electronic Health Records to improve patient care.

    3.  Working with leaders of the Local Health Integration Networks to
        involve local doctors so that the needs of patients are met in this
        new era of regionalization of health-care decisions.

    4.  Advocating for long-term health planning to ensure Ontario has the
        appropriate health-care infrastructure to deal with the needs of
        patients in the future.
    

    "The pressures on our health-care system are increasing as our population
is living longer and facing higher rates of chronic disease," said Dr.
Willett. "We need to ensure that our system has the capacity to handle the
increasing care needs of our patients and that doctors have access to the
latest technology to care for patients in order to maximize safety and
efficiency."
    In her speech, Dr. Willett also highlighted the fact that doctors
continue to be concerned that new models of care are creating unequal access
to health services for patients. She stated that all patients deserve access
to a family doctor and the health care services currently being offered to
patients whose doctors practice in groups.
    "Many of the solutions for our health system must involve input from our
front-line health-care providers," said Dr. Willett. "We are committed to
working with the government and provincial leaders to help ensure Ontario
doctors have access to the tools needed to provide the best care for our
patients."





For further information:

For further information: Nadia Daniell, OMA Media Relations at our OMA
offices at (416) 340-2892, toll-free 1-800-268-7215 ext. 2862 or cell (416)
801-7908


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