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Access is the top health-related issue in Northern Ontario, says survey

Access to services is the top health-related issue for northern Ontario residents, according to a recent survey from the Ontario Medical Association (OMA).

Privatization could help in some cases, says physician

In January the Northern Ontario School of Medicine said there is a need for 313 full-time equivalent physicians across Northern Ontario. (HSN)

Access to services is the top health-related issue for northern Ontario residents, according to a recent survey from the Ontario Medical Association (OMA).

"The OMA asked a number of questions, and it all boils down to patients in northern Ontario feel they don't have access to their primary care providers, to specialists, to hospitals, to clinics," said Dr. Stephen Cooper. a family doctor on Manitoulin Island and the association's northeast chair.

Forty per cent of survey respondents said they don't have enough doctors in their community, and 55 per cent believe the way local health care is delivered has worsened due to the pandemic.

In January the Northern Ontario School of Medicine said there is a need for 313 full-time equivalent physicians across Northern Ontario.

That need, according to the school, includes 126 family physicians, 159 specialists, in a variety or field, and 20 hospital and emergency medicine physicians.

Is privatized health care the answer?

On the question of whether or not privatized health care can help fill that gap, Cooper said the association has advocates on both sides of the debate.

"Lots of health care that patients need is private already," he said. "Pharmaceuticals, physiotherapy, some mental health. There is a component of private health care, but the essentials of hospitals, physician services and dental services continue to be publicly funded."

Cooper said that in his opinion, the effectiveness of private health care depends on a person's location. "If you live in a remote rural community, then the worry would be that you would have less access to services," he said. "People in the larger centres who have the ability to fund it would probably find that their services were better."

But he added that decisions around privatization in the health-care system should be left to politicians. 

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