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Fixing northern Ontario healthcare: Study finds a B.C. model could work well here


Finding health care in northern Ontario can be tough, doctors are hard to come by and it has left thousands across the region without primary care.

A new study from the Northern Policy Institute has determined one of the main reasons why some physicians are reluctant to practice in rural and remote communities in northern Ontario is their limited ability to consult others, get second opinions and obtain patient support in complex cases.

It found in B.C., however, the health care system is operating with a model that has increased health care coordination and not only attracted but helped to retain some doctors.

It’s called the Rural Coordination Centre of British Columbia (RCCbc) and the study’s author said it has helped to improve the working conditions for physicians in regions similar to northern Ontario.

Bryanne Rocha, of Northern Policy Institute, said one of the biggest stumbling blocks for northern Ontario has been that there is no dedicated health strategy. There are two strategies out there, but neither has yet to be implemented.

"And there’s resources for physicians in multiple different organizations so it’s hard to connect them even though they work towards the same goal," she told CTV News.

Dr. Ray Markham is the executive director of RCCbc and is also a rural doctor in the community of Valemount, in eastern B.C.

When it comes to recruiting and retaining doctors, he said it’s a lot like gravity, in that there are a lot of forces at work.

"And then to figure out how you can balance them and not say 'they shouldn’t be or they’re not there.' It’s about what you can put in place to make things better," he said.

While he wouldn’t go so far as to tell another group of professionals as to what they should do, he said the model has had its benefits in his province.

Rocha found an organization mirroring the RCCbc could connect physicians in northern Ontario to rural and remote locums in the region, support accountability by measuring the progress of programs and strategies, ensuring their implementation and then reporting on their impact.

She adds it would also reinforce the northern lens in policy, leading to solutions targeting the needs of rural and remote communities in the north.

"Anyone interested, so if the rural physicians are interested in northern Ontario, to go ahead with this. If the government is willing to provide the funding, there is already a model working in B.C.," said Rocha.

She said northern, rural and remote B.C. is a lot like northern Ontario.

It’s something that could be done here but the decision to do something rests with the Ontario Medical Association and the Ontario government.

To read the full report, click here. Top Stories

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