Judith Monteith‑Farrell MPP, Thunder Bay–Atikokan

Government of Ontario

Horwath in Thunder Bay to fight for shorter health wait times

Published on March 15, 2022

Horwath will force a vote in the legislature on her plan to hire hundreds of health workers for the North

THUNDER BAY – Official Opposition Leader Andrea Horwath is in Thunder Bay Tuesday to fight for shorter waits for health care.

“At the Thunder Bay Regional Health Sciences Centre you typically have to wait a whopping 19 long hours to be admitted. Without enough doctors, nurses, nurse practitioners and specialists throughout the community, the wait to see a specialist, get a surgery, or even see a family doctor are frustratingly and painfully long. The only alternative is to head to another city — which costs people time and money. It shouldn’t be this way.

“But together, I know we can start to fix it. With more doctors, nurses, nurse practitioners and other frontline health professionals, we can help people get care sooner, closer to home. Investing in Thunder Bay health care is investing in Thunder Bay families.”

The Thunder Bay Regional Health Sciences Centre alone currently has over 25 vacancies for full time doctors. Thunder Bay paramedics say code black events, where there are no ambulances available, are now a regular occurrence, as the short-staff ambulances encounter short staffing at the hospital, which can leave paramedics sitting with a patient in the ambulance bay for hours at a time.

The pandemic has revealed how stretched thin the system has become over many years. The Liberal government of Steven Del Duca and Kathleen Wynne froze hospital funding for years and cut 1,600 nurses. On top of cuts and underspending, Doug Ford has made the staffing shortage worse with a low-wage policy, driving staff away.

Horwath and the NDP will force a vote in the legislature on Wednesday March 23 that will put a plan and the funding in place to start to fix the Northern doctor, nurse and specialist shortage. It would fund a plan to attract, train and retain nurses, physicians, and specialists in Northern Ontario, expand the number of seats and training opportunities at the Northern Ontario School of Medicine, and the repeal of Ford’s low-wage police, Bill 124. The NDP is also committed to fixing the Northern Health Travel Grant for times when families do have to travel to get the care they need and deserve.

Background

Horwath will move the following motion on Wednesday, March 23:

PLAN TO ADDRESS SHORTAGE OF HEALTH CARE WORKERS IN NORTHERN ONTARIO

Whereas the shortage of health care workers creates barriers to timely care in Ontario’s northern, rural and remote communities, and lack of access to family medicine, mental health care, addiction treatment resources and other important services contribute to shorter life expectancies for Northerners compared to other Ontarians; and

Whereas the pandemic has exposed the problems caused by the underfunding of Northern Ontario healthcare by successive Liberal and Conservative governments, and Ford government policies such as the Protecting a Sustainable Public Sector for Future Generations Act, 2019 (previously Bill 124) intensify the staffing challenges faced by northern communities; and

Whereas vacancies for physicians and specialists have resulted in emergency departments and other hospital wings closing, cancellation of urgent care clinic services and wait times of up to 18 months for counselling and therapy services for children and youth in communities across Northern Ontario; and

Whereas Northern health teams have experienced difficulty retaining doctors due to high workloads and lack of access to integrated services, and emergency room patients can average wait times of up to 19 hours before being admitted to hospital; and

Whereas health care providers and advocates such as the Northern Ontario School of Medicine (NOSM) and the Ontario Medical Association call for an urgent and immediate infusion of over 300 doctors, 100 specialists, and a minimum of 40 mental health practitioners to address healthcare needs in the region, and the Northern Policy Institute calls for the establishment of a Northern Mental Health and Addictions Centre of Excellence to address the unique challenges of service and program delivery in Northern Ontario; and

Whereas NOSM and other stakeholders cite the need for measures to attract, train and retain doctors to include increasing training spaces from 64 to 100 students per year as well as improved access to housing and family supports;

Therefore, the Legislative Assembly calls on the Ford government to immediately fund and implement a plan to attract, train and retain nurses, physicians, and specialists in Northern Ontario that includes the expansion of training opportunities at NOSM; supports for housing, transportation, and family services and the repeal of Bill 124.