Today, the Eastern Ontario Wardens’ Caucus (EOWC) passed a motion supporting Ontario’s doctors as they advocate to stop government cuts to patient care.
The motion came after Ontario Medical Association President Dr. Mike Toth met with the Eastern Ontario Wardens’ Caucus this morning in Pembroke and outlined how the government’s imposed changes to doctors and medical services are impacting patient care.
“We are all acutely aware that this is a critical time for Ontario’s health care system,” said Dr. Toth. “At a time when there are more than 800,000 Ontarians still without a family doctor and 140,000 new residents are being added into the system every year, the government is in the process of implementing unilateral restrictions and cuts in an effort to balance its budget. They are putting their budget ahead of patients.”
One of those restrictions is to the ability of family doctors to join team-based models of practice – the model in which new doctors are currently trained – which could impact the family physician recruitment efforts municipalities in Eastern Ontario, and across the province, have undertaken to attract doctors to their communities.
“A key factor to our great quality of life in rural Eastern Ontario is having access to family physicians and health services close to home,” said Warden Eric Duncan, chair of EOWC. “We want to make sure that our communities are well served and that rules and regulations are not burdening our valued rural health care practices. We support any changes that encourage more doctors to set up practice in communities around Ontario, particularly Eastern Ontario.”
Doctors may only join teams in communities the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care have identified on a list as areas of high physician need. The problem is the MOH has cut in half the number of doctors who can join teams and there are 200 communities on the list competing for those 20 doctors per month.
“The reality is there is a need for family doctors in communities across the province – whether they area on the list or not,” said Dr. Toth. “My practice gets calls every week from people looking for a family doctor, but the Ministry doesn’t deem my community of Aylmer an area of high physician need.”
Another change the government imposed on Feb. 1 was an arbitrary limit on the number of services doctors can provide to patients by placing a cap on the budget for medical services. This cap will be achieved by clawing back physician billings after they have already provided care to their patients.
“As government imposes these terms, doctors will do everything we can to limit the impacts these cuts will have on patients,” he said. “But make no mistake; there will be negative impacts on patients.”