ST THOMAS – While the current government continues to make pre-election spending promises, Elgin-Middlesex-London MPP Jeff Yurek’s concern over the doctor shortage in the region has grown.
“This Liberal government has made a lot of hay with all their spending promises,” said Yurek. “Yet I’ve been working with the Ministry of Health since I’ve been elected to try to bring doctors to our region yet these front-line services don’t seem to be a priority for this government.”
Doctors who have serviced Elgin County for many years are aging. Many speculate that this will put further strain on a region that is already experiencing a shortage of doctors. In the past two years, the number of doctors in the Dutton area has fallen from three to one, two doctors – each with a patient of loads of more than 1,400 people – in St. Thomas have passed away, Rodney has lost their only doctor, and a doctor in Aylmer has submitted notice of his impending retirement.
“This is a severe problem,” said MPP Jeff Yurek. “While our doctors are aging and retiring, so is the general population which means the demand for medical services will go up over the foreseeable future.
“We need a health care system that better incentivizes doctors to come to rural areas.”
The Ministry allocates incentive pay for doctors to certain rural regions based on need. The need is assessed using a metric known as the Rurality Index of Ontario. Any regions with a score of 40 receive incentive pay for doctors. As a region moves up the scale over 40, they receive an increasing amount of incentive pay.
“I first met with the Ministry of Health on this issue two years ago. Dutton currently has a RIO score of 37. Despite the fact they have one doctor that sees patients from the town and surrounding area, the Ministry refuses to update the RIO scores to accurately reflect how underserviced this region truly is.”
Yurek went on to say that a number of rural areas represented by his colleagues at Queen’s Park are experiencing similar challenges in trying to get the Ministry to recognize the lack of service in certain regions.
“I’ve met with local doctor recruiters, Western University, and HealthForce Ontario to try to get at the root of this problem.
“However, the Ministry hides behind things like RIO scores. It’s time for the Minister to recognize that doctor shortages in rural areas are a real problem and this government needs to make it a priority.”
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