Claim that the loss of 50 residency positions doesn’t impact access misleading

We cannot afford to lose physicians in the North

To the Expositor:

A recent article discussing the increase of five residency positions in the North, but the overall reduction of 50 residency positions in Ontario not affecting access to care is misleading. The Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care has cut physician services by almost seven per cent this year and as a result Ontario’s publicly-funded health care system will be put under immense strain and patient care will suffer. Yet, the ministry continues to refuse to resume negotiations with the Ontario Medical Association, the association that represents the doctors of this province.

Minister of Health Dr. Eric Hoskins claim that the ministry is committed to helping regions with high needs and that the ministry will make evidence based-decisions in health care planning is also misleading. I have represented rural physicians across the province at the Ontario Medical Association for the last four years and at no time has the ministry approached us about improving sorely needed health care resources and reform in rural communities. In fact, the ministry has made cuts to rural health care.

Not only is the population of Ontario growing and aging, so is the average age of Ontario’s physicians. It does not take much foresight to know that the physician shortage of the last 10 years will return. In larger, southern communities, patients can expect to see increasing difficulty accessing care. In smaller communities, like those on Manitoulin, a doctor shortage can become a crisis with only one or two physicians relocating or retiring, leaving many patients with no reasonable access to a doctor.

Physicians are mobile; within the province, across the nation and around the world. We cannot afford to lose physicians in the North. By only moderately increasing the number of residency positions in the North, yet reducing them across the province; by dramatically cutting physician services by seven per cent this year; and by refusing to have meaningful discussions with the OMA about care, the ministry is hurting patient care everywhere, including the North. The residency reduction is not a gain for the North it is a loss for all of us.

Sincerely

Dr. Stephen Cooper

Chair of Rural Medicine Forum

Ontario Medical Association