NDP Leader urges government to act on memo warning of looming gaps in local health care
QUEEN’S PARK — Official Opposition NDP Leader Andrea Horwath called on the Doug Ford government Thursday to act urgently on a memo from 13 northern physicians warning that emergency department closures are possible across Northern Ontario.
“Northerners deserve to have quality, reliable access to health care. They shouldn’t need to travel hundreds of kilometres to get to an emergency room. No one should never, ever pull up to the hospital to find the ER doors locked. It is absolutely not okay and not safe that families are facing the threat of ER closures in our province,” said Horwath.
“This government needs to listen to these doctors who are sounding the alarm and laying out solutions — and they need to act now to keep northern ERs open.”
Horwath shared some of the content of the doctors’ letter with the legislature: “Many communities across the north are suffering a severe shortage of physicians. The decision and consequences of closures need to be owned by the government, including Ontario Health, and not the clinicians in communities.”
Dr. Sara Van Der Loo, chief of staff at Atikokan General Hospital and chair of the Northwest Regional Chief of Staff Council said that every small hospital in the region could see its emergency room temporarily closed due to the shortages, just like what happened in Red Lake. Every small hospital across the Northwest is at risk of the same situation.
“Doug Ford and this government have not prioritized the health and safety and the basic access to hospital emergency room care of Northern Ontarians,” said Horwath.
“Staff are suffering from increasing burnout. This government is not effectively recruiting, retaining or returning our health care heroes. Now small and large hospitals are at risk of temporary emergency department closures. In this great and wealthy province, it should never have come to this — and we’ve got to take urgent action to fix it.”