Doctor Shortage Threatening the Economic Well-Being of our Communities

    Doctors receive support from municipal leaders

    OTTAWA, Aug. 26 /CNW/ - In an unprecedented move, Ontario's doctors asked
municipal leaders at this year's Association of Municipalities of Ontario
conference to join in calling on the provincial government to take any
measures necessary to ensure every Ontarian has access to a family doctor.
Support for a petition urging government action was overwhelming, with close
to 400 signatures received.
    "There isn't a municipality in Ontario that doesn't know the plight of
patients without access to a family doctor," said Dr. Ken Arnold, President of
the Ontario Medical Association (OMA). "The amount of support from municipal
leaders across the province is an indication of just how wide-spread this
problem is."
    Arnold raised concerns not only about the impact on the health of
patients across the province, but also the negative economic impact that the
doctor shortage is having on many communities. A poll conducted by the OMA
showed that 83% of Ontarians believe that the doctor shortage negatively
affects the economic growth of their communities. Doctors want to make sure
that all municipalities have an adequate number of doctors to:

    -   Ensure their citizens are healthy and have timely health care.
    -   Attract businesses and skilled employees so that their economies are
        able to grow and prosper.
    -   Reduce unnecessary emergency room visits and hospital admissions.
    -   Ensure quality care for an aging population.

    "Ontario's doctors want to ensure patients in Ontario - regardless of
where they live - have access to physician care," said Dr. Arnold. "We
received great support from the municipalities in terms of pushing forward the
ban on smoking in cars with children legislation and we are calling for their
support again to ensure all Ontarians have access to the health care they
    According to the OMA, Ontario's doctors, with the help of the provincial
government, have taken on 630,000 patients who were previously without a
doctor; however, the province is still short 2,500 physicians, leaving over
850,000 patients without their own family physician. The OMA fears that as
competition from other provinces and the United States continues to grow,
Ontario could see a net loss of physicians for the third year in a row. To
compound this, the OMA found that Ontario would lose another 2,500 doctors
today if all those 65 and older decided to retire.
    "Communities in Ontario have already devoted great energy and resources
towards attracting more family doctors," said Dr. Arnold. "It is our hope that
by opening this discussion and partnering with communities, we will be able to
build on this work and affect some positive change."

    Speaking Notes - OMA Reception at AMO Conference
    Ottawa, August 25, 2008
    For: Dr. Ken Arnold


    -  Hello and thank you for joining us tonight.

    -  I've already met many of you - I'm Dr. Ken Arnold and I'm President of
       the Ontario Medical Association.

    -  On behalf of the OMA and Ontario's 25,000 doctors, I would like to
       express our sincere thanks to municipalities for the overwhelming
       support you have shown doctors in our province.

    -  You all play an important role in keeping our communities safe and

    -  We called on you recently to support our call to ban smoking in cars,
       when there is a child present.

    -  You sent letters and many of you passed resolutions.

    -  Without your support, the Premier's recent announcement to introduce
       legislation prohibiting smoking in cars with kids might not have
       become a reality.

    -  It is clear from the support shown already, that you share in our
       belief that protecting the health of Ontario's patients is one of our
       most important jobs.

    -  I'm here to ask for your support again.

    -  As leaders in your community you know all to well the challenges
       facing the province when it comes to our health human resources.

    -  Right now in the province of Ontario - there are almost 850,000
       patients who don't have a doctor. We're short almost 2500 physicians.

    -  Ontario continues to lose doctors to other provinces and nearby

    -  To make matters worse our physician population is getting older and
       many of us will be crossing our fingers that we can retire in the
       years to come.

    -  You know these problems exist in your community. You've seen them
       first hand. You've seen the line ups that ensue when a new doctor
       comes to town.

    -  You've also seen the uncertainty when a doctor moves or retires.

    -  We need to do better.

    -  Last month, in partnership with the Institute for Clinical Evaluative
       Studies (ICES) we released a new groundbreaking report that measured
       the Impact of Not Having Family Doctor on our health care system.

    -  15% of our sickest patients - those with chronic disease (asthma,
       diabetes) don't have a doctor to help them manage their care.

    -  The result is almost 120,000 unnecessary emergency rooms visits each
       year. And tens of thousands of avoidable hospital admissions.

    -  What we weren't able to quantify was the impact the doctor shortage
       has on the viability of our communities.

    -  We are convinced though - that our communities are stronger when there
       are an appropriate number of doctors.

    -  It means more beds in our hospitals for those who need them. It also
       means faster access to our emergency rooms.

    -  We also believe that it means it will be easier for you to attract new
       business to your town or city. And will make it easier to keep
       business there.

    -  In addition - your communities will be healthier. Your young trained
       talent will stay longer, and your communities will continue to grow.

    -  It is for these reasons that you've all been forced to get into the
       recruitment and retention business. Many of you have hired a physician
       recruiter and are walking in unfamiliar territory.

    -  I congratulate you for taking on what used to be purely a provincial
       responsibility. But I am also sympathetic.

    -  This didn't use to be in your job descriptions. As if you didn't
       already have enough on your plates.

    -  The news isn't all bad. In fact, we've made some great progress in
       recent years.

    -  Since 2003 - we've been able to get 630,000 patients a doctor who
       didn't have one previously. In partnership with government we've
       turned the corner.

    -  Doctors are now working harder than ever to see more patients. They're
       staying open later, on weekends, and their working closer with other

    -  Our message to you today however is - we need your help. We need your
       support if we are going to continue to see progress.

    -  We need the government to continue to make the recruitment and
       retention of physicians a priority. Let's not quit because we've made

    -  In my inaugural speech - one of my priorities for my year was to get
       every Ontarian a doctor. It's a lofty goal, and it won't be done this
       year - but we can't stop.

    -  As you may know, if you've had a chance to visit our booth, we are
       asking municipal leaders to sign a petition that calls on the
       Government of Ontario to take whatever steps necessary to ensure every
       Ontarian - regardless of geography - has access to a family doctor -
       to make certain they receive the level of care they deserve.

    -  This petition is a small part of an overall strategy that will show
       our MPPs at Queen's Park that we are serious about the need to improve
       our health care system.

    -  Many of you have already signed, and I thank you.

    -  We'll be keeping you informed in the months ahead, and I encourage you
       to write or call if we can help.

    -  Thanks for joining us tonight. Thanks for your continued support and I
       look forward to seeing more of you this fall.

For further information:

For further information: OMA Media Relations at (416) 340-2862 or
toll-free at 1-800-268-7215 ext. 2862

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