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Expert panel gathers public feedback in Barrie to address Ontario health care crisis

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Hearings are being held across Ontario to gather feedback on the province's health care system and find ways to improve it.

An Ontario Health Coalition panel stopped at Barrie's public library Tuesday to hear directly from residents about their experiences with the health care system.

Natalie Mehra, executive director of the Ontario Health Coalition, posed questions to those in attendance, "How can we deal with critical staffing shortages in Ontario? What can we recommend to deal with those?"

The discussion highlighted issues in both hospital care and primary care access.

Collingwood resident Ken Robertson shared his experience visiting his Barrie-based family doctor after the practice was relocated to Midland.

"When I arrived, I was shocked but not surprised to see the lineup around the building and cars parked all over the place," he described.

Residents are calling for more comprehensive, team-based care that goes beyond the current family health team model. However, many feel their pleas are being ignored.

"I would write to the opposition parties, the Liberal, the Green, the NDP with your concerns, cc the conservative health critic or whoever that is because they've already demonstrated that they don't care about public health care for people," said Barrie resident and former NDP candidate Myrna Clark.

One panel member, Ontario Liberal Health Critic Dr. Adil Shamji, echoed those sentiments.

"Health care is supposed to be comprehensive, universal, publicly administered, portable, and accessible. Those five things are the promises that the Canada Health Act makes. Those five things are the promises that Doug Ford has broken."

The panel will hold six more hearings across Ontario.

The feedback gathered will be compiled into a report with recommendations for improving local health care, which will be presented to the Ford government.

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