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Ottawa needs 171 doctors immediately, here's what OMA wants the government to do

A doctor is shown in an undated file photo. (Pexels/Jonathan Borba) A doctor is shown in an undated file photo. (Pexels/Jonathan Borba)
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Ottawa is in need of 171 family doctors, which is putting pressure on Ontario's already strained healthcare system, according to the association representing the province's doctors.

The Ontario Medical Association (OMA) is urging the Ontario government to take immediate action, noting that 2.3 million Ontarians are already without a family doctor. The OMA warns the number of people without a doctor could double in the next two years.

"The implications of people not being able to access primary care are severe," OMA president Dr. Andrew Park said.

“The crisis we have seen unfold in Sault Ste. Marie, leaving thousands of people without a family doctor, will replicate itself across the province. We can’t just sit back and watch this situation get worse. We need to act now so people in Ontario can get care when they need it."

The Ontario Medical Association says Ontario needs more than 2,500 physicians. Toronto tops the list, as it’s missing 305 doctors. The report says Kingston is short 23 doctors.

Park notes that family doctors are the bedrock of the system, as they help patients stay healthy, prevent disease by identifying risk factors, manage chronic disease and get their patients access to diagnostics and many other health-care services.

“The result of the doctor shortage is people left with health-care concerns that need attention. Heart-breaking things can happen when patients don’t have primary care," said Dr. Park. "Our goal is to make sure everyone in Ontario has access to a family doctor. People are paying for health care through their taxes and they deserve a doctor. Let’s make sure that happens.”

Meanwhile, Ontario’s doctors say the number of family doctors who are considering to leave the province is increasing, noting that underfunding in the province’s health-care system and rising inflation pressures are making the profession unsustainable.

They say that family doctors have been spending 40 per cent of their week working on filling out forms and helping patients navigate through the system, an added task that has nothing to do with medicine.

In the next five years, 40 per cent of doctors are considering retiring, according to an OMA survey.

"We have heard from our members that the current situation for family physicians and our specialists is not sustainable," OMA CEO Kimberly Moran said. "The OMA wants to work with government to ensure there is a future for health care in Ontario.”

Here’s what OMA wants the government to do to address the issue:

  • Fixing the crisis in primary care to ensure everyone has access to a family doctor
  • Addressing the growing burden of unnecessary administration
  • Increasing community capacity and tackling hospital overcrowding

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