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NDP: No help coming from government to relieve family doctor shortage

A motion to act on the family doctor shortage in Kingston was voted down on its final vote, which means more help to recruit and retain family doctors in Kingston and the Islands is not on the way.

NDP MPP Ian Arthur (Kingston and the Islands) presented the motion in a well illustrated speech on November 19, 2020. He stated that our emergency room utilization rates are through the roof because residents can’t access care through family physicians and primary care facilities.

In 2015, the Liberals took Kingston off the list of communities that receive extra help recruiting and retaining doctors, having deemed the city “adequately serviced”. According to a statement from the Ontario NDP Caucus, recent estimates show almost one in four residents are without a family doctor or are forced to travel outside the region for primary care. Arthur’s motion would have changed that.

“Too many people in Kingston have gone without a family doctor for too long,” said Arthur. “The previous Liberal government had 15 years to help with this crisis in Kingston, and they let us down. Now the Ford Conservatives are digging in their heels, leaving people to cope without a regular doctor, and contributing long, painful waits for patients at Kingston’s overcrowded hospitals.”

“This exaggerates the problem when you are faced with crises like the pandemic,” Arthur shared in his speech. “If too many people don’t have access to a primary care physician to call, who knows their medical history, who can provide them advice over Zoom or on the phone, they do access it in areas that, frankly, at this point in time are dangerous. Where they shouldn’t be going. We are asking people to stay home yet we are not giving them the support and services that they need to have to be able to stay home.”

“This motion was a call to action to ensure that everyone in Kingston and the Islands has a doctor,” Arthur continued. “Someone to refill prescriptions, monitor chronic conditions like asthma and high blood pressure, and keep people healthier.”

MPP Arthur’s motion would have obligated the province to recognize the dire shortage of family doctors in the region by designating the city an Area of High Physician Need by the Ministry of Health.

According to the release, Arthur said he’s shocked and disappointed that the Conservative government voted down his motion in support of a strategy to bring more family doctors to Kingston, and that not one Liberal showed up to support Kingston, either.

“We need to attract more family doctors to Kingston but we can’t do that if the province is telling them this city doesn’t need them, and won’t help them come here,” said Arthur. “This motion could have been a step towards easing the suffering and anxiety of so many residents in Kington who need a local doctor.”

Arthur vowed not to give up the effort to attract, recruit and retain more family doctors to Kingston, including having the city put back on the High Physician Need list.

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