Ontario’s doctors and municipal leaders look to improve access to care in rural areas
By Matt McNama, OMA Public Affairs
Ontario doctors living and working in rural areas of the province have a lot to say about how to meet the needs of patients across the province.
That’s why the Ontario Medical Association (OMA) took part in the Rural Ontario Municipal Association (ROMA) annual conference, an event that brings together more than 600 rural elected officials, stakeholders and government leaders to talk about issues of importance – including health care.
The conference provided a vital opportunity for doctors from rural areas to meet with elected officials, and to hear first-hand about the challenges rural residents are facing when it comes to accessing care.
Doctors are well aware one of the main issues facing rural communities is the recruitment and retention of doctors, which was a theme that presented itself numerous times throughout the conference, including during the meeting with officials from South Bruce and neighbouring Wingham area.
“The Wingham area is underserviced by five or six doctors, making it difficult to meet patient needs in our rural communities,” said Jan McKague, Physician Recruitment Officer, who was part of the South Bruce delegation at the conference. “That’s why we appreciate meeting with organizations like the OMA to discuss our challenges, and find solutions so that patients in rural centres can get the care they need.”
To help address the issues facing rural communities, Ontario’s doctors spoke with municipal leaders about the sustainability of health care in rural Ontario. They also spoke about how numerous pieces of legislation could have unintended consequences for patient care, for example Bill 41 and Bill 87, which impose major changes to the health-care system and were drafted without any input from front-line doctors.
Doctors also hosted a session on the state of medicine in rural Ontario; the presentation was attended by more than a hundred leaders eager to collaborate with Ontario’s doctors to find solutions.
It is a challenging time for health care in Ontario, particularly in rural communities. Both rural officials and Ontario’s doctors expressed how important it is to keep the lines of communication open between them so they can address concerns and ensure that rural patients are getting the care they need.