Many health-care issues raised at ‘town hall’ here
The current health-care system in Ontario is not benefiting those living in the north—at least not according to those who attended the town hall-style meeting here Friday morning.
The session, hosted by local MPP Sarah Campbell and NDP health critic France Gelinas, drew more than 20 residents, many of whom had questions and concerns about the current health-care system locally.
“I am hearing many stories where the health-care system didn’t meet people’s expectations,” noted Campbell.
She said her intention is to take the feedback she received from the meetings to bring positive ideas to the table to ensure the system in this region is sustainable and meets the needs of patients.
“Everything they have in Toronto is not going to come to Fort Frances,” conceded Gelinas, who also is the MPP for Nickel Belt (Sudbury).
“But we want equity.”
Some of the issues brought forward here included doctor recruitment, retention of services, health prevention, and assisted living/home care.
One resident noted their concern about having to compete—even among area communities—for physicians.
Gelinas noted there is one doctor for 4,500 people in the north. In Toronto, by comparison, there is one for 350.
“Do we have enough doctors in Ontario? I don’t know,” Gelinas remarked. “But we’d probably be okay if they were distributed where they were needed.
“It’s not health care—it’s a business,” she charged, adding right now doctors can set up shop wherever they want.
“What I want is for there to be positions open here for doctors, but not in Toronto,” she explained.
Another resident asked how Fort Frances can keep doctors in the community when it seems services, for example casting, continue to be moved to larger centres.
“You can’t turn into a specialist being in Fort Frances,” he noted.
Gelinas agreed that services, such as certain surgeries and procedures, no longer are being done at small hospitals because they can’t do it a price that compares to the larger centres.
She noted people in Fort Frances are doing more travelling to Winnipeg because it’s cheaper to do it there than in Fort Frances.
“The government saves a few dollars but you get the bill,” she stressed, referring to the cost of gas, hotels, food, etc.
As well, there’s the issue of rural doctors not doing surgeries or procedures often enough to perform them safely.
But Gelinas said there are ways around this. Doctors could go to the “centres of excellence” to go over the procedure and then return to do it locally.
“Once you lose [these services], they’ll never re-open,” she warned.
Another resident shared his frustration of having to pay $40.10 to have a physician fill out paperwork for him.
Gelinas noted doctors are paid per medical act, not per patient or to fill out a form.
“We disagree with the fee-for-service model,” she said. “Let’s stop this.
“Let’s give [doctors] a salary—way bigger than yours or mine—but then they can use their time for good patient care,” she reasoned.
Still another resident asked about whether there is a plan in place to care for seniors as the “baby-boomer” population ages.
“First of all, aging is not a disease,” Gelinas explained. “There are plenty of seniors who are fit and active and not a burden.”
While she could not speak to the Liberal plan, she stressed the NDP’s platform is to keep people living where they want to live as long as they can.
“But our home-care system needs to be fixed,” she remarked, indicating workers need to be paid better to ensure stability for the elderly.
“And it needs to be affordable,” she added, referring to the $3,000 price tag associated with assisted living in many areas.
Gelinas emphasized it goes against the Canada Health Act, which establishes that Canadians receive care based on need—not on their ability to pay.
“I’m so impressed with the issues that have been raised,” Campbell enthused when the meeting here wrapped up, though saying she also would like to hear specific experiences riding residents have encountered.
Those who would like to share their stories or opinions, but were unable to attend Friday’s meeting, are encouraged to submit a letter outlining their concerns via e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org
Letters also can be mailed to Campbell’s constituency office at 58 Princess St., Dryden, Ont., P8N 1C7.