On Tuesday, November 7th, a key Primary Care Town Hall convened family physicians, nurse practitioners, senior administrators, and elected officials to address the pressing issue of the primary care crisis affecting our region. The event was jointly sponsored by the United Counties of Stormont, Dundas and Glengarry, the Social Development Council for Cornwall and Area, the Great River Ontario Health Team, and the Ontario Medical Association (OMA), with a shared commitment to fostering collaboration and finding solutions to the healthcare challenges facing our communities.
Attendees included Members of Parliament, including Eric Duncan, as well as Mayors and senior officials representing local governments spanning Cornwall, SDG, and Russell Township. Regrettably, a scheduling conflict prevented a representative from the Mohawk Council of Akwesasne from joining us. Local Members of the Provincial Parliament, Nolan Quinn and Michael Sarrazin, were unable to attend due to prior commitments.
Local elected officials shared the concerns they hear almost daily from constituents about the lack of access to primary care. They also shared information on initiatives that have recently been successful in attracting and retaining healthcare professionals in the region. Family physicians and nurse practitioners expressed their frustration with the lack of access to services and supports for their patients and practices, that could make it possible for them to serve more people. There was a strong interest from everyone to find solutions by working together.
The Great River Ontario Health Team shared information on a project that is underway, including many healthcare organizations, local municipalities, the Social Development Council and others to collectively recruit and retain healthcare workers, their spouses and families in our communities. Active involvement with this project was requested to all levels of government because it will take working together to achieve our goals.
In June 2023, the Great River OHT submitted a proposal to Ontario Health and the Ministry of Health (MOH) as part of a $30 million fund supporting primary care. The proposal underscored the urgent need for 66 new doctors, nurse practitioners, mental health workers, and other healthcare professionals in the region. The overarching objective is to ensure that every resident has access to a primary care provider supported by a comprehensive healthcare team, thus addressing the existing inequities in the current primary care system. It’s important to note that the Ministry of Health (MOH) has yet to announce the successful recipients for this funding.
Dr. Marilyn Crabtree, a family physician and physician leader for the Great River OHT, expressed her enthusiasm, stating, “I am thrilled with the number of politicians, physicians, and nurse practitioners who have made time in their busy schedules to meet and initiate a conversation about how primary care could be reimagined in our region. We are facing a crisis, with 17,000 residents in our region lacking access to primary care. This number could double or even triple by 2027 if we do not act promptly to recruit new physicians and NPs to fill the roles of those nearing retirement. With a unified voice, we can advocate for the policy changes and funding required to ensure no one is left without care.”
Following a robust and open discussion, some next steps were identified, including a plan to arrange meetings with local Members of the Provincial Parliament (MPPs) to actively involve them in ongoing efforts to redesign team-based primary care for the 21st century, meeting the needs of both healthcare providers and patients.
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