We need a more collective way of thinking about health care, one that focuses on solutions, strengthens the alignment between patient priorities and system capacity, and directs provincial financial and human resources toward the best possible health outcomes.
We must address Ontario’s physician shortage – both specialists and primary care doctors – and enable them to work in a team-based way. This is particularly true outside the Greater Toronto Area and in rural and remote communities. We need to focus on a multi-stakeholder solution to the regional and northern disparities in health care. The Ontario Medical Association is calling on the federal government to increase the Canada Health Transfer payment to enable better health care for all Ontarians.
The pandemic has highlighted that a disconnected system is a barrier to achieving the most effective, integrated and equitable care that Ontarians expect. It has also highlighted that the social determinants of health matter.
Representing Ontario’s 43,000 doctors, the OMA held the largest consultation in our 140-year history to develop Prescription for Ontario: Doctors’ 5-Point Plan for Better Health Care.
More than 1,600 physicians and physician leaders provided their expert advice. Doctors navigate the health-care system every day to get the best and fastest care possible for their patients. They bring a unique view of the roadblocks to achieving access, equity and integration, and they understand the best possible health outcomes.
More than 110 health-care stakeholders, social service agencies and community leaders provided solutions from their unique perspectives. Almost 8,000 Ontarians representing 600 communities shared their health-care priorities through an online survey.
Prescription for Ontario: Doctors’ 5-Point Plan for Better Health Care is the result of this extensive consultation: a roadmap of realistic and achievable recommendations to fix the gaps in our health-care system. The COVID-19 pandemic has made these gaps more visible, but Ontario’s doctors, nurses, pharmacists, hospital administrators and other health professionals have been speaking out about most of them for years.
Ontarians also recognize that the system should work better. Fifty-eight per cent of respondents to an OMA online survey said the pandemic had worsened their views on the way health care is delivered in their communities.
To improve the delivery of health care in Ontario, it all comes down to these five priorities:
Health care also needs to be built around the principles of access, equity, efficiency and integration: All Ontarians should get the best care possible – no matter who they are, what they do, or where they live. Care providers and caregivers should be supported and appreciated. We must make the best and wisest use of the resources we have.
These imperatives echo the principles of the Quadruple Aim, an internationally recognized framework to deliver an effective health-care system. These aims should be universal in Ontario:
And there has never been greater urgency than now as our health-care system grapples with the devastation of COVID-19.
The pandemic has also proved that Ontario cannot have a strong and sustained economy without a robust, resilient and reliable healthcare system that reduces the need for lockdowns and other measures in a public health emergency. We need to keep small businesses alive, restaurants full, schools open and people spending – our economy stays open when our health-care system stays strong. We must future-proof health care – and by extension our economy – so we don’t repeat the same mistakes and make the same sacrifices as we have during the COVID pandemic.
Ontarians recognize the connection between health care and the economy. When asked what priority should be given to addressing issues in the health-care system, 36 per cent of Ontarians responding to the OMA’s online survey at betterhealthcare.ca said health care should be the highest priority above all others, and 49 per cent said it should be the same priority as the economy.
The next provincial election is scheduled for June 2, 2022. Soon all political parties will be releasing their pledges and plans to share with Ontario voters. The OMA believes the recommendations contained in Prescription for Ontario: Doctors’ 5-Point Plan for Better Health Care should be included in every party platform so that regardless of who wins the election, all Ontarians will win better health care.
Now is our best chance to work together and rebuild Ontario’s health-care system for the long term. Together, we will have better outcomes for everyone and be prepared for when – not if – the next major health crisis hits.