SIOUX LOOKOUT – The Ford government must act immediately to stop the further closures of emergency rooms in Northwestern Ontario said Sol Mamakwa, NDP MPP for Kiiwetinoong, in the following open letter. A dire doctor shortage is once again forcing the Red Lake Margaret Cochenour Memorial Hospital to close its emergency room.
Letter From MPP Sol Mamakwa:
Dear Minister Jones,
I am writing today to inform you that the Red Lake Margaret Cochenour Memorial Hospital (RLMCMH) is unable to staff 12 hours of the July 7th to the July 8th Emergency Department Physician shift.
This is the second time in four months that the hospital’s Emergency Department is being forced to close because of physician shortages. As a result, emergent patients must travel 2.5 hours to Dryden to receive care.
When the Emergency Department closed in March, the Chiefs of Staff of hospitals in Northwestern Ontario warned the government that more closures are imminent. I also alerted the government to this, explaining that such closures could happen in other northern hubs like Sioux Lookout.
It is unacceptable that in a province like Ontario, thousands of Northerners are being left without life-saving care. This is made worse by the fact that this closure is not a surprise – we anticipated it. Therefore, we should have been prepared for it.
As such, I call on the government to take the immediate actions that Dr. Sara Van Der Loo and the Chiefs of Staff in Northwestern Ontario outlined in March. The actions are as follows:
- The government must work with the Ontario Medical Association (OMA) to create a system of incentives to recruit physicians to Northwestern Ontario. These incentives should not compete with one another.
- The government must provide equitable funding for full-time physicians in Northwestern Ontario, vs. locums.
- The government should incentivize internationally trained physicians to work in the North by expediting their ability to gain a license.
- The government should work with the Northern Ontario School of Medicine (NOSM) to incentivize postgraduate trainees to undertake their residency in Northern Ontario.
- The government should work with NOSM to ensure that locums that are coming to rural Northern Ontario can bring residents from their own institution.
- The government should increase opportunities – or even mandate return of service obligations – for students and residents to work in the North.
Along with the Chiefs of Staff, I urge the government to undertake these actions immediately. It is no exaggeration to say that the lives of Northerners are in jeopardy. This is an issue that transcends political divisions. We can agree that all Ontarians should have access to medical care in the event of an emergency. As such, I am committed to working alongside the government to address this issue as quickly as possible.
I hope that you will respond to this issue with the urgency it requires. I ask you to inform me what steps the government will be taking to ensure that another Emergency Department closure does not happen again.