Stand Up for Healthcare: Health Care and Chinatown Communities sign on letter
Dear Premier Ford and Minister Jones,
We are stakeholders in Toronto Chinatown and health care, where a pressing issue regarding the shortage of family doctors has come to our attention. MPP Glover, and MPP Bell hosted a town hall for Chinese-speaking residents, during which we heard from numerous individuals who expressed deep worry about the lack of access to a family doctor. The situation is particularly concerning for those who are 75 years old and above, as the absence of a primary care provider understandably raises significant anxieties.
A review by MPP Glover's office and MPP Bell's office of the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario's website revealed alarming statistics. Of the 24 doctors practicing in downtown Toronto, where Chinatown is situated, a staggering 80% have been practicing for 43 years or more, indicating that 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 are planning to retire in the coming months, leaving thousands of residents without a 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, as 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 overwhelmed emergency rooms.
We are urging the Ontario government to address the family doctor shortage in Chinatown and throughout Ontario by making a substantial investment in primary care. We propose an significantly increase investment in primary care in the 2024 budget, with a focus on expanding primary care clinics, including those led by nurse practitioners.
Additionally, we call for expedited assessment and approval processes for internationally trained family doctors and nurses to ensure that qualified professionals are not leaving the profession due to delays in recognizing their medical skills. Increasing the number of family doctor residency positions is essential to train more healthcare professionals, and efforts should be made to reduce the administrative burden on family doctors, allowing them to focus more on patient care and less on paperwork.
Many individuals emphasized the importance of clear communication with their healthcare providers to ensure accurate diagnoses and effective treatment plans. In light of this, we propose that the government takes significant steps to address language barriers by covering interpreter fees for family doctors and patients. 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 our province.