Toronto

Neurologists warn of service shortage in Ontario

The Association of Ontario Neurologists is calling for more funding from the province to alleviate a shortage of doctors they say is compromising the health of Ontario's aging population.

The Association of Ontario Neurologists is calling for more funding from the province to alleviate a shortage of doctors they say is compromising the health of Ontario's aging population.  

Dr. Ranjit Singh, the organization's leader, told a news conference Wednesday that the province's 220 neurologists are under increasing pressure to meet the needs of an expanding elderly population — many of whom are facing longer waits to see a specialist.

"It would depend on what part of the province you're in, but this can take as long as four to six months in some cases," Singh said.

"A patient with, say, a new presentation of seizures or spinal cord tumor, recent stroke-like symptoms cannot afford to wait such long periods for diagnosis."

The problem is exacerbated by an aging population of neurologists. Many are retiring without replacements.

"This is the problem, there's no one to take our place. No one is coming up to help us take care of more and more patients," Dr. Keith Meloff, a travelling neurologist who sees patients in northeastern Ontario, told the news conference.

He cited wait times of anywhere between six months and a year.

"If you or your family, a wife, a brother, a sister or child, needed neurological care, you would want it now," he said.

Both doctors want the province to put additional resources into attracting and retaining neurologists. But Health Minister George Smitherman said their demands are just some of the many health-care issues the province is facing.

"In health care, there are many places we can do more and we always have to prioritize those resources," Smitherman said.

He said he is in negotiations with the Ontario Medical Association to set the province's health-care priorities, and that the concerns of neurologists should be addressed then.

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