Our healthcare system is in crisis.
Hospitals are struggling to fulfill all the healthcare needs we are asking of them. At the same time, many people in Ontario are without access to a family doctor. Lack of access to healthcare is leading to greater lost time and limiting workforce mobility. While our hospital and family physician services are in need of investment, there are other healthcare professionals in our communities that are underutilized and can help fill in the gaps when it comes to primary and non-urgent healthcare needs.
This is why the Peterborough and the Kawarthas Chamber of Commerce is submitting the following as a policy resolution to the Ontario Chamber of Commerce (OCC). It’s a document we worked closely on with fellow chambers, boards of trade, and industry associations. The OCC takes policy submissions once a year which go to members at the annual convention later this week to debated and voted on. If approved, they become part of the OCC’s advocacy efforts for the next three years.
Hospitals are regularly at capacity for dealing with emergencies and staffing struggles have led to regular temporary closures to new admittance.
While COVID-19 and a particularly difficult influenza season created challenges, adding further pressure is the lack of family physicians. According to the Ontario College of Family Physicians, more than 3 million Ontarians could be without a family doctor by 2025.
People without a family doctor are left to piece together their healthcare services with what is available to them, including attending Emergency Rooms for non-urgent healthcare needs.
Increasing the service capacity of hospitals and access to family doctors should be a priority for the government, but there are other healthcare services that can help take some of the pressure off in the near term.
Nurse Practitioners can shoulder some of the demand for family doctors through funding more Nurse Practitioner-led clinics as a primary care option, as well as funding the additional Nurse Practitioner seats at Ontario's universities.
Similarly, pharmacists have the expertise to ease some of the healthcare burden by increasing their ability to prescribe and administer medication. Steps have recently been taken to expand this capacity, but more can be done.
Community Health Centres are able to provide physical and mental healthcare to some of our most vulnerable citizens. There are still many communities around Ontario that do not have this service, which serves individuals who live with complex mental health and/or addictions, extreme poverty, and disability. It is welcoming to newcomers, racialized individuals, Indigenous persons, and individuals who identify as 2SLGBTQ+. The need for Community Health Centres is especially important for businesses located in historic downtowns who are dealing with the consequences and filling in some of the gaps for marginalized individuals.
Enhancing funding for Community Paramedicine Programs will assist communities with an additional safety net that will meet people’s healthcare needs without a visit to the hospital.
We need our government to work with local healthcare providers to ensure people have access to walk-in clinics. This is a vital stopgap for people unable to access a family doctor, but in need of non-emergency healthcare — yet many communities are un- or underserviced. Enhancing access to walk-in clinics is a necessary preventative measure that will ensure the treatment of various ailments that may otherwise be escalated and lead to readmittance, putting further pressure on an already strained healthcare infrastructure.
Mobile clinics offer resources to rural communities that are often without significant local healthcare services.
Employers in Ontario are facing significant challenges attracting and retaining their workforce. Providing adequate and efficient healthcare will minimize absenteeism and create a stronger, healthier workforce.
Workers are reluctant to relocate due to the potential loss of access to a family doctor, limiting workforce mobility in Ontario.
Healthcare challenges increase in rural communities, adding more barriers to attracting skilled workers — particularly for our struggling tourism sector.
A healthy workforce will drive a healthy economy.
Our recommendations to the Government of Ontario:
1. Provide more funding for Nurse Practitioner-led clinics, and fund additional Nurse Practitioner seats at Ontario's universities
2. Expand funding for community paramedicine programs.
3. Support Community Health Centres as a means of addressing healthcare needs for those with barriers and needs that fall outside the scope of traditional healthcare systems.
4. Ensure communities have access to walk-in clinics.
5. Invest in mobile clinics to meet non-urgent healthcare needs in rural communities.
6. Make medical schools more financially accessible to students interested in entering the medical field.
7. Work with the federal government to Improve the mobility of physicians within Canada by broadening the national licensure program.
8. Continue to improve recognition of equivalent qualifications held by international medical graduates to integrate them into the Canadian medical field and meet fast-growing demand.
9. Increase admission capacity for different types of healthcare professionals,
10. Expand programs to offer incentives for healthcare professionals — including physicians, nurses, specialists, and technicians — to locate in rural and northern regions experiencing higher levels of healthcare workforce shortages.
11. Ensure that communities across Canada possess the digital infrastructure necessary for enhanced and integrated telehealth programs that bring physician teams and patients closer together.
The Peterborough and the Kawarthas Chamber of Commerce acts as a catalyst to enhance business growth, opportunity, innovation, partnerships and a diverse business community.