Jessica Bell MPP, University–Rosedale

Government of Ontario

Letter to Minister Jones: Re: Address the Family Doctor Shortage in Chinatown and Across Ontario

Published on March 5, 2024

Re: Address the Family Doctor Shortage in Chinatown and Across Ontario

We are writing to you on behalf of the concerned residents of Chinatown, where a pressing issue regarding the shortage of family doctors has come to our attention. MPP Glover and I hosted a town hall for Chinese-speaking residents in October 2023.  During that townhall, we heard from numerous residents who expressed deep worry about their lack of access to a family doctor. The situation is particularly concerning for seniors, as the absence of a primary care provider understandably raises significant anxieties and health concerns.

We recently reviewed the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario's website and learned that of the 24 doctors practicing in downtown Toronto that speak Cantonese or Mandarin a staggering 80% have been practicing for 43 years or more, indicating they are nearing or at retirement age. Moreover, we have learned of five doctors serving the Chinese community who have recently retired, and two more who are planning to retire in the coming months. Thousands of residents will soon be without a family doctor.

This issue is not unique to Chinatown; it is a province-wide challenge. According to the Ontario College of Family Physicians, an estimated 2.2 million Ontarians currently lack primary care, a number expected to rise to 4.4 million by 2026. The implications for our health and healthcare system are significant. Having a primary care provider is crucial for physicals, medication prescriptions, referrals, and the consistent management of non-urgent and preventative care.

Residents should not find themselves resorting to emergency rooms, such as Toronto Western, for prescriptions due to the absence of available alternatives. Shockingly, one in five patients visiting emergency departments is there solely because they lack a family doctor, as reported by the Auditor General's investigation into our Ontario’s emergency rooms.

We are urging the Ford government to address the family doctor shortage in Chinatown and throughout Ontario by taking the following steps:

  • Significantly increase investment in primary care in the 2024 provincial budget, with a focus on expanding primary care clinics, including those led by nurse practitioners, in underserved areas like Chinatown.
  • Expedite the assessment and approval processes for internationally trained family doctors and nurses to ensure that qualified professionals can quickly start work and build their careers in Ontario.
  • Increase the number of family doctor residency positions in medical schools.
  • Reduce the administrative burden on family doctors, allowing them to focus more on patient care and less on paperwork.
  • Address language barriers by covering interpreter fees for family doctors and patients. Many individuals at our town hall emphasized the importance of clear communication with their healthcare providers to ensure accurate diagnoses and effective treatment plans. This crucial measure will not only enhance the quality of healthcare but will also contribute to reducing disparities in health outcomes among diverse communities, ensuring equal access to health care for every Ontarian.

It is our firm belief that every resident in Ontario should have access to quality primary care, irrespective of their age, ethnicity, location, or income. We appreciate your attention to this matter and look forward to your support in addressing the urgent need for increased investment in primary care in the Chinatown area and across our province.

We welcome a meeting to discuss these issues further.

Jessica Bell, MPP for University-Rosedale

Chris Glover, MPP for Spadina-Fort York

Kristyn Wong-Tam, MPP for Toronto Centre