TORONTO, Feb.15, 2023—Ontario’s doctors are calling on the provincial government to put money in the upcoming budget to find and keep more doctors, address wait times and improve palliative care.
“The pandemic tested Ontario’s health-care system in unprecedented ways, highlighting the cracks that existed before the virus arrived here in early 2020,” said Dr. Rose Zacharias, president of the Ontario Medical Association. “Ontario’s health-care system is in dire need of immediate solutions to improve patient access to care and to increase capacity.”
The OMA has a comprehensive plan for fixing the health-care system over the next few years, Prescription for Ontario: Doctors’ 5-Point Plan for Better Health Care. While working on those bigger issues, the OMA has proposed three short-term solutions it recommends the government include in its 2023-24 budget.
- Not just finding more doctors but keeping the ones we have by reducing the administrative burden, one of the leading causes of burnout. The strain on family doctors in particular is enormous and many consider the current situation to be a crisis
- Addressing wait times by creating a central referral and wait list registry for some surgeries and procedures
- Reserving hospitals for patients who need acute care by moving more palliative patients into the community and equipping all long-term-care homes with IV and diagnostic equipment to reduce the need for hospital transfers
Details of these and other solutions can be found in the OMA’s pre-budget submission sent to government this week. The solutions in this document that could be costed would total about $320 million for 2023-24. Many of the OMA’s recommendations would actually save money by making the health-care system more efficient and moving more care into the community, including homes.
For example, the average cost of one day in an acute-care bed in Ontario is $1,100 – twice the cost of hospice care and more than 10 times as much as at-home care for end-of-life and palliative patients.
Many palliative patients occupy acute-care beds in hospitals only because they are waiting to be discharged to a more suitable setting such as long-term care, hospice, hospital-based palliative-care beds, or home care. This is stressful for patients and caregivers and is a poor use of health-care resources.
The OMA is recommending the government create another 500 hospice beds around the province.
“The new money offered by Ottawa for health-care funding, while much less than expected, should more than cover the cost of our short-term solutions and serve as a down payment to cover all 87 recommendations in our Prescription for Ontario,” said OMA CEO Allan O’Dette. “We look forward to seeing our solutions in the provincial budget and working with the government to rebuild our health-care system.”