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City Council calls on provincial and federal governments to step up in healthcare

While the City of Kingston is looking for proactive ways to address the family doctor shortage that has resulted in massive lineups and frustration for those missing out on rostering, city council made it clear on Tuesday night that upper levels of government are -literally and figuratively- leaving municipalities out in the cold.

Multiple councillors expressed their frustration with the provincial government in particular given how frequently city council has had to discuss ideas to deal with healthcare issues that should fall within the province’s perview.

Pittsburgh Councillor Ryan Boehme said it’s embarrassing that upper levels of government have allowed this problem to trickle down to municipalities.

“From a provincial level, and even for the influence that the federal level has,” Boehme said.

“It’s just embarrassing.. in a country as prosperous as Canada that we are dealing with this as a City of Kingston council. The fact that our debates are about things that are literally provincial and federal policy… it’s downright embarrassing.”

Council heard a recommendation from city staff to offer $100K to local clinics in an effort to free up time for family doctors so they can theoretically spend more time with patients, thereby allowing them to take on more patients.

The city has nearly exhausted $2 million in funds meant for family doctor recruitment and retention, and council permitted an additional $1 million in top up funds that this program would draw from.

Kingscourt-Rideau Councillor Brandon Tozzo also introduced a motion calling for the province to designate Kingston as an “area of high physician need”, so that communities like Kingston can be prioritized in the face of such great need, and asked for a regulatory framework that would prevent municipalities from competing against each other when vying for physicians.

“Whereas health-care services, including primary care, [are] a provincial responsibility and the province has not provided the City with any financial support for these family physician recruitment initiatives,” the motion read.

“Therefore be it resolved that the city of Kingston request that the province of Ontario review service standards for underserved communities, such as Kingston, and actively work with communities to increase access to primary care.”

Kingston and the Islands MPP Ted Hsu echoed the exacerbated need that Kingston faces, saying it’s a bigger shortage than much of Ontario.

He says working towards a solution will require buy in from doctors within the industry and, of course, the Ontario government.

“Repeated efforts over the last five years to get the Ontario Ministry of Health to designate the Kingston area as high needs have gotten no response. The Ministry of Health does not have good data. That’s why they can’t see it for themselves. A City of Kingston study published in 2020 proved that there really are a higher than average number of people in the Kingston area without family doctors,” Hsu said.

“There are doctors and nurse practitioners here in Kingston, but they aren’t working all the hours and seeing the number of patients they could. The most useful thing we can do right now, is to expand team based primary care so that the training, time and good will of family doctors and registered nurse practitioners and registered nurses can be put to best use.”

The Financial Accountability Office of Ontario estimated in 2023 that the provincial government had allocated $21.3 billion less than would be needed to fund health care plans and expansions.

Owen Fullerton, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
Owen Fullerton, Local Journalism Initiative Reporterhttp://ygknews.ca
Born and raised in Whitby, Ontario, Owen has been living in Kingston for about three years after starting the band Willy Nilly. Prior to that he worked at CKLB radio in Yellowknife and completed studies in Niagara College's Broadcasting program.

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