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'Lot of question marks' on government plans to support family physician compensation, says local doc

North Bay physician Dr. Taylor Lougheed said there are also questions about how the government plans to 'reduce the enormous admin burden faced by family physicians to allow them to maximize their clinical time with patients'
Dr. Taylor Lougheed

This story was first published by BayToday, a Village Media publication.

North Bay physician Dr. Taylor Lougheed is praising the Ontario government for its budget announcement this week that provides money for team-based medical care, but adds there is still plenty of work to do.

"There is a lot of frustration in family medicine, and by extension, the entire health-care system right now," he told BayToday. "It is broadly felt that dramatic action and significant investment is required to support family medicine, increase team-based care, and link patients with providers."

Team-based primary care offers a wide range of health services to patients by using interdisciplinary healthcare providers committed to delivering comprehensive, coordinated and high-quality care through team collaboration.

"There are an estimated 2.3 million patients without family doctors, and of those that do have family doctors approximately 70 per cent of them don’t have access to team-based care," explained Lougheed. "The announcement by the government in the recent budget for $564 million over the next three years to support an estimated 600,000 patients access to team-based primary care is important. There are still a lot of question marks, however, around government plans to support family physician compensation and reduce the enormous admin burden faced by family physicians, to allow them to maximize their clinical time with patients.

"It is also unclear if there are any plans to address the many Ontarians who will remain without a family doctor or team-based primary care under this funding announcement."

Ontario tabled a budget of $214 billion this week, its largest budget in provincial history.
But Dr. David Barber, chair of the Section on General and Family Practice of the Ontario Medical Association, called it "another swing and a miss, with no relief for family doctors."

“It’s almost laughable at this point; for months, we’ve repeatedly brought up the crisis faced by family doctors; just like small businesses, they struggle to keep their lights on, deal with the same inflationary pressures, and yet, this funding does nothing to help family doctors stay in their practice. Family doctors know best about what will reduce the overwhelming burnout suffered by our section, and we need to be brought to the table to offer real solutions. This budget is entirely silent about our increased overhead costs and administrative burdens.”

“Until we begin to address the root of the issues facing family medicine, we will continue to lose our family doctors, fail to recruit new ones, and the government funding will continue being a band-aid solution,” says Dr. Barber. “It’s time to rip off the band-aid and work together to properly address the dismal state of family medicine in this province.”

The Ontario Medical Association estimates doctors spend, on average, 19 hours a week, or 40 per cent of their work weeks, completing paperwork. If they could defer that task to others and give them access to an integrated primary care team, it would be the equivalent of adding 2,000 doctors to the system, Provincial party Leader Marit  Stiles has said.

She believes the provincial government is using the health-care crisis as an excuse to allow privatization to seep into the system.

NDP Deputy Leader Sol Mamakwa called out "the blatant disregard for northern Ontario in the 2024 provincial budget."

"This 2024 budget still leaves northern Ontarians behind and waiting for the investment they need. Six years in and Ford still hasn't come up with solutions to our communities' pressing issues. Mental health, homelessness, healthcare crises, emergency rooms closing—the North is struggling because the government is failing to recognize our urgent needs."

Dr. David Barber wants further action. "We are ready to work with the government to solve this crisis, which will allow us to focus on providing quality care to our patients. Family doctors must be brought to the table, and the government must listen."

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