KAWARTHA LAKES-A new analysis by the Ontario Medical Association (OMA) has found pandemic closures have created a backlog of almost 22 million healthcare services that will take months and in some cases years to clear. That’s almost 1 million more than the last OMA analysis in February and is in addition to the pre-pandemic issue of wait times, many of which were already longer than medically recommended.
The backlog includes everything from preventative care to cancer screenings such as mammograms and colonoscopies, diagnostic tests such as MRIs and CT scans, medical treatments and surgeries. Doctors are already finding that patients are showing up sicker because of the delayed diagnosis and treatments.
Ontario’s doctors released a report card recently comparing how many of their recommendations for better health care have been adopted by the four main political parties in the June 2 election campaign.
The Ontario Medical Association has asked all parties to adopt its plan for fixing the gaps in the healthcare system exposed by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Prescription for Ontario: Doctors’ 5-Point Plan for Better Health Care offers specific recommendations and solutions in five key areas: reducing wait times, expanding mental health services, improving home and community care, strengthening public health and pandemic preparedness and giving every patient a team of digitally linked health-care providers. There are separate recommendations for health care in northern Ontario in Prescription for Northern Ontario.
The OMA says it analyzed each party’s political platform and public policy announcements to develop a Prescription Report Card that will be updated throughout the campaign and during the next four years. Ratings are based on whether the party’s promises line up with OMA priorities, whether their commitments are costed and whether there is a clear implementation plan.
The ratings range from one stethoscope (a modest commitment to address the Prescription’s five priorities ), two stethoscopes (a moderate commitment) and three stethoscopes (the most commitment). Based on these criteria, the highest number of stethoscopes any party could earn is 18.
“The more stethoscopes a party earns, the more aligned the party’s health-care plans are with the OMA’s plan and the more likely it is that Ontario’s patients will get the care they need, when they need it,” said OMA President Dr. Rose Zacharias. “We are determined to get our plan adopted and implemented by whoever forms the government.”
Dr. Zacharias said that while some of the platform commitments were encouraging, considerably more needs to be done by all parties, especially to strengthen public health and give every patient a team of healthcare providers who are linked digitally.
In this early phase of the election campaign, the Progressive Conservatives and the Liberals have earned 10 stethoscopes each. The NDP has nine and the Green Party has seven.
Only one party got the full three stethoscopes for any priority – the NDP for its recommendations for health care in northern Ontario. The NDP’s commitments include hiring 300 doctors, including 100 specialists and 40 mental health practitioners, and taking stronger action to address the opioid crisis, particularly on First Nations reserves.
“Health care is the No. 1 issue in this election campaign,” said OMA CEO Allan O’Dette. “The most important lesson we learned during the pandemic is how important it is to have a strong health-care system if you want to have a strong and healthy economy.”
According to an Ipsos survey for the OMA in late 2021, 96 per cent of Ontarians support the OMA’s five priorities, which were developed following the broadest consultation in the association’s 140-year history. The most recent Ipsos survey for the OMA conducted in late April found that health care continues to be the most important issue for Ontarians, ahead of inflation and housing. Health care is ranked No. 1 or 2 by one-third of voters.
Specifically, Ontarians told Ipsos they were concerned about wait times and the pandemic backlog and they see hiring more healthcare professionals as a solution. The need for more healthcare workers is especially important given that about 1 million Ontarians lack a family doctor and many front-line healthcare workers have experienced burnout during the pandemic.