The association says the province needs to admit more foreign health workers, reduce waiting times and expand access to palliative care
Ontario doctors have recommended three timely solutions to some of the world’s most pressing public health challenges.
This would include accommodating more foreign doctors and medical staff, using integrated outpatient centers to streamline hospital care, and expanding access to palliative care.
The ideas were unveiled during an online press conference Thursday presented by the Ontario Medical Association and chaired by its President, Dr. Rose Zacharias was held.
She said the urgency of OMA follows the staffing crisis that has become apparent in recent months.
“As you have no doubt heard, and some of you may have written about this, record numbers of patients attended nursing and emergency departments this summer, some of whom had to close our emergency departments at night over the weekend due to staffing issues while backlogs of medical services and surgeries grow further, said Zechariah.
She added that it has also become apparent that too many Ontarians do not have a family doctor.
“So fixing Ontario’s healthcare system isn’t going to be quick, it’s not going to be easy,” she said.
OMA member Dr. Commenting on the situation, Joy Hataley said the problem of doctor shortages existed before the COVID-19 pandemic, but has since worsened. Hataley, who is also a primary care physician in Kingston, said that as of 2018, about one million Ontario residents were known to not have a primary care physician. By 2020, that number was nearly two million.
“And we predict it will be closer to 3 million in 2025. This is untenable given what is happening to patients without a GP,” Hataley said.
She said despite various incentive programs to attract more doctors to each community, there just aren’t enough doctors to meet the demand. She said Ontario needs to look beyond its borders. She cited Ukraine as an example, since four million citizens had already left this country.
“We would not invite people who are actively serving a war-torn country in Ukraine. you are gone A lot of those people are medical professionals with skills, you know,” Hataley said.
“Can we find a way to invite these people with the skills that we need here in Ontario? Can we find a way to get her here? And similarly, should we look to several other cohorts for the resources we need and need now? We don’t have a decade or two to produce them ourselves, we have to get other people involved.
Regarding the idea of Integrated Outpatient Centers (IAC), it was explained that such centers could be set up as independent care facilities serving for non-emergency health situations of initial consultations, minor interventions and operations on an outpatient basis, without creating additional burden on acute care hospitals.
OMA member Dr. Jim Wright commented that the IACs are being created in other parts of the world and can save money in addition to relieving the acute hospital system.
“Outpatient surgeries and procedures can be performed about 25 percent more efficiently, including the Canadian experience. What does that mean? That means you can do 25 percent more for the same amount of money. Or for the same number of procedures, you can do it 25 percent cheaper. So that’s the basic rationale,” Wright said. He added that Ontario’s healthcare system can be adapted to ensure that patients receive the highest quality of care regardless of where they receive medical care.
The other area requiring significant changes, the OMA press release said, is palliative care. The doctor dr. Sandy Buchman of North York, who is considered an expert in palliative care, said at the press conference that OMA was already investigating palliative care solutions before the pandemic. Simply put, Buchman said Ontario needs to create more hospice spaces and devote more resources. Buchman said the last time the Ontario Auditor General raised the issue was in 2014.
“But at the time, it was costing the hospital $1,100 a day to keep this patient in the hospital. And for a hospice resident, it’s $450 a day,” Buchman said.
“About 70,000 people die in hospitals a year and we say we’ve taken half of that, 35,000. That could be cared for in a community hospice. We’ll save $550 a day, I think, per patient. average length of stay of 21 days times whatever tens of thousands (of dollars) may be. That’s hundreds of millions,” Buchman said.
He said the plan to change hospice care is part of OMA’s long-touted five-point plan to transform Ontario’s healthcare system.
“That’s why we’re committed to a whole network of hospice and end-of-life care that can be very cost-effective and provide the quality of care that patients need,” added Buchman.
“We also believe that we really should improve home palliative care services and support. At the moment we have a number of interprofessional teams, but it’s unfair across the province. It’s really important to get these services all over the province,” he said.
OMA said it would also like more training to increase the number of health workers and staff involved in palliative care.
“Ontario spends more than $208 million annually on dying inpatients awaiting a bed in a more appropriate care environment. Long-term care, hospices and palliative care units in hospitals or home care,” reads OMA’s press release.