Toronto, ON March 25, 2015 – The provincial government’s imposed cuts will drive new physicians out of Ontario and hurt patient care, says Dr. Ved Tandan, President of the Ontario Medical Association.
As part of the government’s cuts, new family physicians are being barred from joining team-based models of care, like family health teams, in the community of their choice. Team-based family practice is the model students and residents (physicians in training) are being trained in – and the model that will allow them to provide the best quality of care to their patients.
“More than 500 family medicine residents in Ontario are set to graduate in June. While many planned to enter a family health network or family health organization, those plans are now in limbo because of the government’s action,” says Dr. Tandan. “There are 900,000 people in Ontario without a family doctor – these government cuts will drive family doctors away from Ontario and hurt patient care. It’s not right.”
Family medicine residents are trained in team-based models of care where they work with other doctors, nurses, dieticians, mental health counsellors and other allied health professionals to provide comprehensive care to their patients.
Dr. Michael Verbora is one of those residents; the University of Toronto family medicine resident is set to graduate in June.
“I am both frustrated and disappointed with the government’s actions and its decision to limit new graduates from practicing in family health teams. I have been training in this model and just months before graduating, I am being told I have to change my plans,” says. Dr. Verbora. “I’ve grown up in Ontario and want to provide care to my patients in this province; however the government is making it very difficult for new graduates. I’ve had to take a step back and start considering another province, or even moving to the United States.”
In the past decade, government and physicians have worked together to create an environment that encourages medical students to pursue family medicine. Today, nearly half of medical students choose family medicine compared with 15 to 20 years ago, when only a quarter were electing to enter this field. This partnership led to 2.5 million Ontarians who didn’t have a family doctor 10 years ago having one today, but there is still more work to do as hundreds of thousands of Ontarians are still without a family physician.
Physicians are becoming a scarce resource not just in Ontario, but in many jurisdictions. A study released earlier this month by the Association of American Medical Colleges projects a shortfall of up to 90,400 physicians in the United States by 2025 as the demand for physicians continues to grow faster than supply.
“We only have 28,000 practicing physicians in all of Ontario and there are other jurisdictions in need of health care professionals that may look more attractive to our doctors,” says Dr. Tandan. “Meanwhile, many communities in Ontario are in need of additional family doctors; there are tens of thousands of patients in communities across the province struggling to access primary care today and the government’s actions are only going to make that worse.
“We urge the government to return to the negotiating table and to reconsider these harmful actions.”
The Ontario Medical Association’s Board of Directors unanimously rejected the government’s offer on Jan. 15 because it would hurt patients and new physicians. It presented a counter offer to freeze physician’s fees for two years if the government funded the growth in the health care system from a growing and aging population, which requires more complex care. The government has not considered that counter offer and instead moved forward with unilateral action on Feb. 1.
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