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Ontario makes multi-million dollar investment to address doctor shortage in Simcoe County

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The provincial government is injecting millions of dollars to help fill the gap in parts of Simcoe County as the doctor shortage intensifies.

On Thursday, Simcoe North MPP Jill Dunlop announced more than $2.4 million in funding to provide more access to primary care teams throughout the northern region of Simcoe County.

"This milestone marks a pivotal moment in our collaborative journey toward bolstering healthcare accessibility and efficacy across Simcoe-North," Dunlop said. "With this funding, we embark on a transformative path to bridge the gaps in healthcare services, ensuring that every individual in our community has access to quality care they need and deserve."

Orillia

Of that, $2.3 million will go towards the Couchiching Ontario Health Team for communities in and around Orillia, connecting 19,200 with a family physician.

"By bolstering healthcare service, access and networks, we are not only enhancing the wellbeing of our citizens but also alleviating the strain on our hospital and emergency department while we work towards a modernized, new acute care hospital," said Orillia Mayor Don McIsaac.

Midland

The North Simcoe Ontario Health Team will get $90,831, connecting up to 800 people with primary care in the Midland area.

"It just makes perfect sense to us that nurse practitioners and doctors and other allied healthcare professionals work in facilities like this," said Midland Mayor Bill Gordon. "The province clearly recognizes the need, and the ones that are killing it are getting the funding."

The investments are part of the government's overall $ 110 million investment throughout the province.

Primary Care Teams

These primary care teams include many health professionals, including doctors, nurse practitioners, registered and practical nurses, physiotherapists, social workers and dietitians.

"Although we are still in the early phases of maturity, the continued growth and evolution have already made a positive impact on the communities we serve, with services such as the enhanced coordination of care, health at home for patients transitioning from hospital and integrated pathways of care," said Carmine Stumpo, the president and CEO of Soldier's Memorial Hospital in Orillia.

Doctor Shortage

Late last month, the Ontario Medical Association reported that 118 physicians are needed across Barrie and Muskoka.

The primary care lead for the Couchiching Ontario Family Health Team says there are upwards of 22,000 people in the Orillia area without access to primary care, with the OMA saying roughly 2.3 million individuals across the province don't have a family doctor.

"For this community, we don't have enough family doctors to provide the comprehensive, continuity of care that is best care for our patients and their families and caregivers and alongside, we don't have enough team members to look after patients in the way that is best suited for their care needs," said Dr. Kim McIntosh.

McIntosh says those team members are critical, especially for people with chronic conditions who need help navigating the system between different medical specialists.

"We're already doing the work, and we've certainly done a gap analysis, and we know where we need to add the additional services, and we know what we've been doing to date, and this funding will already be put to exceptionally good use," added McIntosh.

The province hopes to relieve pressure on emergency departments and walk-in clinics by investing in more primary care teams.

According to the province, these continued investments will eventually connect upwards of 98 per cent of Ontarians with primary care over several years. However, the exact time frame was not provided.

Altogether, there are six Ontario Health Regions. There are 58 health teams across the province - these replaced the previous local health integration networks in 2019.

The funding was made available only to select health teams, including Couchiching and Simcoe North, based on various success metrics.

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