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Dr. Toth wants to know our healthcare needs

Ontario's doctors kick-off Check-Up Ontario in Sault Ste. Marie to identify patient-first solutions for chronic conditions affecting the aging population
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Dr. Mike Toth
Dr. Mike Toth. Photo provided

Wednesday evening in Sault Ste. Marie, local healthcare advocates met with representatives from Check-Up Ontario, including Ontario Medical Association President Dr. Mike Toth, to discuss specific healthcare needs in our area.

Focusing specifically on our aging population and the higher than provincial average incidents of chronic diseases such as diabetes and arthritis, Dr. Toth acknowledged that the provincial system needs work.

“I think that patient citizens expect doctors to be at the forefront of looking at the healthcare system and be the leaders in that,” he told SooToday. “By coming to various cities across the province, we want to hear from patients, from their caregivers, and from physicians to see what they need out of the system as we look to the future.”

While doctor recruitment continues to be of growing concern in Northern Ontario, Dr. Toth said that a lack of general practitioners in our area does not contribute to the increase in cases of chronic disease, but it does make it challenging to meet patient needs.

“[Doctors] can help prevent patients from getting them. For example if we concentrate on diet and exercise, then maybe we can prevent some patients from getting diabetes. But to be fair, that’s not what a doctor does. That’s what a patient does,” he said.

“We’ve had some unilateral cuts made to the budget that serves physician services in Ontario,” Dr. Toth explained. “Part of that has made it more difficult for especially family physicians to move into the newer models of team-based care. That has had a huge affect, I think, on recruitment across the province, not only in Northern Ontario.”

Five other communities will be part of the Check-Up Ontario tour, including Whitby, Ottawa, London, Toronto, and Peterborough, in order to gain a wide understanding of what is required in terms of healthcare across the province.

Ideas and suggestions from each tour stop will be brought to a symposium held in collaboration with McMaster University this coming April.

This will hopefully produce a set of solid healthcare reform recommendations to be presented to the provincial government, Dr. Toth said.

“Our sense is the provincial government has been so fixated on their fiscal problems that they’ve kind of thrown the baby out with the bath water,” he told us. “They’re cutting, not just the physician services budget, but also hospitals and home care. The decisions they’re making today have repercussions down the road. It’s a healthcare system that has a growing and aging population with more complex medical problems… and we’re not seeing how that can be sustainable.”

To learn more about the Ontario Medical Association and its initiatives, please click here.

A news release issued by the Ontario Medical Association about Check-Up Ontario follows.

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Ontario's doctors kick-off Check-Up Ontario in Sault Ste. Marie to identify patient-first solutions for chronic conditions affecting the aging population

SAULT STE. MARIE - In an effort to identify and help implement patient-first solutions to tackle the looming challenges posed by an aging population, Ontario's doctors will be meeting local experts and advocates in Sault Ste. Marie today as part of Check-Up Ontario, a doctor-led consultation tour.

"Ensuring we are able to adequately respond to the challenges posed by an aging population with increasingly chronic and complex care needs is the single biggest issue facing Ontario's health-care system," said Dr. Mike Toth, president of the Ontario Medical Association (OMA). "Northern communities already face many unique challenges accessing health care, which is why we need to find solutions before the demand for care becomes unsustainable."

As part of Check-Up Ontario, Ontario's doctors will:

    •    Launch an expert and public consultation tour in six cities across Ontario to identify key chronic care challenges, including those facing aging patients living with chronic conditions;
    •    Convene Ontario's leading health-care experts to determine new and innovative ideas on how to improve patient-focused care by tackling the challenges posed by an aging population; and
    •    Develop and release policies and recommendations to help begin solving the challenges posed by chronic conditions and an aging population.

The complex care needs of Ontarians with chronic conditions impact not only the patients themselves, but also their loved ones who often, particularly in the case of aging patients, serve as caregivers and 'quarterbacks' in coordinating care.

The reality of burdens placed on patients and their caregivers is particularly true in northern Ontario.

Data from the District of Algoma Health Unit, which includes Sault Ste. Marie, shows that the population in the region is impacted greatly by chronic conditions and has a larger senior population when compared to the rest of the province.

In Algoma:

    •    19.1 percent of the population is over 65 years vs. 12 percent in Ontario
    •    There are 112.9 deaths per 100,000 as a result of ischaemic heart disease (heart disease is a disease characterized by reduced blood supply to the heart) compared to 86.9 deaths per 100,000 in Ontario
    •    23.6 percent of the population has high blood pressure (vs. 17.6 in Ontario)
    •    28.2 percent of the population has arthritis (vs. 17.2 percent in Ontario)
    •    9.7 percent of the population has diabetes (vs. 6.6 percent in Ontario)

Through consultations with community leaders, advocates and health-care experts, Ontario's doctors will identify what patients and families need from the system, as well as what physicians need from the system, in order to ensure timely access to patient-focused care in Ontario.

"We are looking forward to meeting with local experts, who are extremely passionate and committed to improving care for patients," Dr. Toth said. "By bringing together those on the front-lines of chronic disease, we will be able to build stronger links between the medical care that patients need and the supports that will ensure they are healthier."

Backgrounder on Chronic Conditions

The Ontario Medical Association (OMA) represents more than 34,000 physicians and medical students across the province.

Ontario's doctors work closely with patients to encourage healthy living practices and illness prevention.

In addition to delivering front-line services to patients, Ontario's doctors play a significant role in helping shape health care policy, as well as implementing initiatives that strengthen and enhance Ontario's health care system.

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Donna Hopper

About the Author: Donna Hopper

Donna Hopper has been a photojournalist with SooToday since 2007, and her passion for music motivates her to focus on area arts, entertainment and community events.
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