Residents of Barrie and surrounding communities are waiting longer than recommended for MRIs, cataract surgery and long-term care compared to Ontarians in other parts of the province, and Ontario’s doctors have a plan to address the issue, says the Ontario Medical Association (OMA).
Province-wide, about 63 per cent of Ontarians receiving an MRI waited longer than provincial targets, according to the latest public data from Ontario Health.
Provincial guidelines recommend MRIs be performed within two to 28 days from the time of decision to undergo surgery, depending on how urgent the procedure is considered. But in the Barrie and Orillia areas, between 73 and 77 per cent of patients waited longer, depending on where the procedure was performed and how urgently it was needed.
For cataracts, about 32 per cent of Ontarians waited longer than recommended, with 43 per cent of people in Orillia and nearby communities waiting longer. Provincial guidelines recommend cataract surgery be performed within 42 to 182 days.
Seniors in the Barrie area are also waiting longer than people in other parts of the province to get into a long-term care facility in the region’s Local Health Integration Network. The median number of days waited to move in was 182 days, compared to the province-wide wait of 149 days, according to the most recent public data from Ontario Health.
“People across Ontario are waiting longer for surgeries and MRIs than the province’s own recommendations, and some of the wait times are even longer for patients here in Barrie and nearby communities,” said Dr. Rose Zacharias, president-elect of the Ontario Medical Association, who lives and works in the area. “Physicians and other health-care workers are doing everything they can to get patients the care they need, but they need help from the province.”
As Ontarians prepare to go to the polls June 2, wait times and clearing the backlog of 21 million medical services built up during the pandemic are among the top issues. An Ipsos survey conducted for the OMA found Ontarians want the government to prioritize clearing the pandemic backlog, even if it means a short-term impact on economic recovery.
When asked by Ipsos to identify the issue most important to them, 40 per cent of Ontarians chose addressing COVID-19, followed by 10 per cent who said access to health care/long wait times/understaffed hospitals. Seven per cent said economic growth should be the government priority.
Another survey conducted for the OMA found that reducing wait times and investing in hospitals, clinics and health-care facilities were key priorities to improve health care in Barrie, Orillia and surrounding communities.
To help solve the wait times issue, the OMA recently released a report recommending the adoption of Integrated Ambulatory Centres, publicly-funded, free standing centres that could perform less complex surgeries and procedures on an outpatient basis and relieve the pressure on hospitals.
Residents of the region are also concerned about mental health and addiction, according to ASI, a market research firm that uses artificial intelligence methodology to obtain insights into public discussions on social media.
Among ASI’s findings:
- Mental health and addiction are the top health-care topics in which people are most engaged in all four Barrie area ridings: Barrie-Innisfil, Barrie-Springwater-Oro-Medonte, Simcoe-Grey and Parry Sound-Muskoka
- People 65 and older are the most engaged demographic in each of those four ridings
Ontario also needs more doctors to help address the issues residents are concerned about and fill gaps in the health-care system that were exacerbated during the pandemic. Barrie needs about nine more doctors, according to Health Force Ontario, which posts job openings for physicians.
Ontario’s doctors have made sweeping recommendations for clearing the backlog, fixing wait times, easing the doctor shortage and addressing mental health and addiction in Prescription for Ontario: Doctors’ 5-Point Plan for Better Health Care. The OMA has called on all political parties to adopt the Prescription’s 87 recommendations to strengthen the health-care system as part of their platforms for the June 2 election.