Ontario family doctors meet online to discuss alternative career paths amid primary care crisis

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A group of family doctors held a meeting Monday evening to discuss alternative career paths, as they say the practice of family medicine is unsustainable in Ontario.

Dr. Ramsey Hijazi, founder of the Ontario Family Physicians Union, a group of more than 1,700 doctors, said the organization had planned a mass movement of doctors to take a “coordinated day off” on Monday, but decided to hold a virtual meeting instead. to avoid any impact on patient care. Approximately 150 family doctors participated in the career summit.

Hijazi, a family doctor in Ottawa, said the goal of the meeting was to draw attention to the crisis facing family doctors. He said family medicine in Ontario is unsustainable due to insufficient funding from the Ontario Ministry of Health and the time family doctors must spend on administrative work, estimated at about 19 hours per week.

“It really shows how dire the situation is and frankly how desperate family doctors are,” he said.

Hijazi said after the meeting that doctors discussed the possibility of moving from family medicine to other fields, such as hospital or cosmetic medicine.

“It’s made a lot of doctors feel like there are options and you don’t have to feel like you have no control over your situation going forward,” he said.

Hijazi said the meeting was also intended to draw attention to what doctors see as a lack of goodwill on the part of the Ministry of Health in its negotiations with the Ontario Medical Association (OMA) for the next medical services agreement, which determines how much money doctors can charge the government. for providing care under OHIP.

The current agreement expires March 31. The OMA represents more than 43,000 physicians, medical students and retired physicians in the province.

In an online petition, the union says it’s important to recognize that family doctors are small business owners facing “significant” financial challenges.

Dr. Ramsey Hijazi
Dr. Ramsey Hijazi, founder of the Ontario Family Physicians Union, a group of more than 1,700 doctors, says: “It really shows how dire the situation is and frankly how desperate family doctors are . » (CBC)

“Family doctors in Ontario are paid by the government through funding to cover various expenses such as rent, staff salaries, nursing services, electronic medical records, computers, telephone bills, utilities public, etc. “

“Our government must support primary care”

Dr. Alia Dharamsi, a physician in the University Health Network’s emergency department, said she’s not surprised doctors are stepping up to make their voices heard. She is not part of the group.

“Our government must support primary care. That’s the bottom line. We need family doctors. They are the backbone of our health system. They are the scaffolding. Without them, everything falls apart.” , she said.

“What we know is that the population is increasing, our population is aging, the needs of people in the health system are only increasing and increasing, but what is not increasing is the support financial support granted to our family doctors,” she added.

“You can’t have limited resources to support an infinitely growing population.”

In a statement released Monday, the OMA said it was aware of the meeting and noted that doctors are not allowed to strike under its agreement with the government.

“We recognize the significant challenges family physicians face. We also appreciate the frustrations they face in the face of systemic barriers that prevent them from practicing comprehensive family medicine,” the statement read.

The OMA has stated that resolving the crisis in family medicine is one of its top priorities.

WATCH | The state of family medicine in Canada:

“I feel like I’m failing”: At the heart of Canada’s family doctor crisis

The family medicine crisis has two sides and profound consequences for all of us. Nick Purdon meets an elderly patient from rural Ontario who has been trying to find a family doctor for a year and an overwhelmed family doctor who admits to missing things with his patients.

Ontario says it is making “record investments”

The Ministry of Health, for its part, said in a statement Monday that it was adding thousands of doctors by expanding medical schools, notably at the University of Ottawa, and expanding interdisciplinary primary care teams, which he says will connect 98 per cent of Ontario. residents to a primary care provider.

In a Feb. 1 news release, Ontario Health Minister Sylvia Jones said the province is investing $110 million to connect up to 328,000 people to primary care teams, which according to it will allow the province to move closer to connecting all Ontarians to primary care.

“Our government is making record investments to ensure that everyone who wants a primary care provider can access one,” Jones said in the release. “While there is still work to be done, providing hundreds of thousands more Ontarians with the opportunity to access primary care brings us one step closer to that goal.”

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