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Medical school needed in Thunder Bay: Hampton

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Although the province is a step closer to establishing a medical school in Northern Ontario, it may not be enough for Northwestern Ontario, NDP leader and local MPP Howard Hampton said today.

Premier Mike Harris announced yesterday that a Northern Medical School Implementation Management Committee will be established to help the government move forward with plans for a medical school to be built in Sudbury.

“The people of our province, including those right here in Northern Ontario, expect and deserve quality health care closer to home,” the premier said.

“Our made-in-Northern-Ontario medical school will help ensure families can get professional medical care, when and where they need it,” he stressed.

Premier Harris was at Laurentian University in Sudbury, the school that will be the main site of the province’s first northern medical school—a decision that has disappointed some in Thunder Bay and across Northwestern Ontario.

“As far as I have seen, all that Thunder Bay will get out of the proposal is marginally a little more than Thunder Bay has now,” said Hampton.

Right now, Thunder Bay is home to the Northern Ontario Medical Training Program, which offers medical students who have completed the academic portion of their studies to make their practical studies in communities across the northwest.

“From what I have seen, the new proposal would marginally increase that and that is not good enough—that will not help Thunder Bay meet some of the challenges it now faces,” Hampton charged.

“The proposal that is there now is excellent news for northeastern Ontario and excellent news for Sudbury,” he added. “The government has finally accepted the argument that it is easier to attract people if they have already been there training in that community.

“They seem to have accepted that, but only for northeastern Ontario,” Hampton said.

The implementation committee announced by Premier Harris will consist of Sudbury Mayor Jim Gordon as chair, along with Thunder Bay Coun. Rene Larson, Kirkland Lake Coun. Linda Cunningham, Laurentian University Prof. Geoffrey Tesson, and the yet to be appointed dean of the new medical school.

The school is being built in response to lobbying efforts for improvements to address the doctor and nurse shortages in Northwestern Ontario.

“This new medical school is just what Sudbury and Northern Ontario need,” said Mayor Gordon. “The Harris government has again shown that they understand northern communities—and they’re helping us lay the groundwork for a great future.”

An additional clinical education campus will be located at Lakehead University in Thunder Bay.

“We’re working hard to ensure that Ontario’s health care system can meet the needs of our growing and aging population,” said Premier Harris.

“We recognize that, here in Northern Ontario, our health care system faces some special challenges, and we will make sure our system can meet those challenges,” he pledged.

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