OMA warns Toronto missing hundreds of family doctors

Toronto is missing hundreds of doctors, the Ontario Medical Association said Monday as it renewed its warning that the province doesn’t have enough family doctors to meet demand in the community.

“The implications of people not being able to access primary care are severe,” OMA President Dr. Andrew Park said in a statement. “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.”

Citing data from HealthForce Ontario, the OMA provided an estimate for how many family doctors are missing in various communities across the province. The organization estimated that Toronto is missing 305 family doctors, followed by Ottawa with 171 empty spots; Barry and Muskoka, with 118, and Hamilton with 114.

The OMA also cited underfunding from OHIP, rising inflation costs, and large amounts of time needed to fill out paperwork and help patients navigate the system as reasons that many existing family doctors are considering leaving their practices.

“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,” Park said. “Our goal is to make sure everyone in Ontario has access to a family doctor.”

The organization previously released an action plan, calling on the Ontario government to fix the “primary care crisis” with a number of recommendations, including expanding access to team-based care and reducing “the burden of unnecessary administration” that doctors face.

In a statement, a spokesperson for Health Minister Sylvia Jones said the province has been working to boost the number of doctors in the province, including a nearly 10 per cent increase in family doctors over the past five years, as well as more spots in medical schools specifically for family medicine.

“While Ontario is leading the country with 90% of Ontarians having a primary care provider, we understand that a key part of our Your Health plan is to ensure all Ontarians who want access to primary care are able to,” the statement read. “That is why we are investing tens of millions of dollars to launch the largest expansion of new interdisciplinary primary care teams. Further details around other successful applicants will be shared very soon.”

The warning from the OMA comes amid ongoing negotiations with the province on a new agreement for Ontario’s doctors. 

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