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UPDATED: Shoemaker wonders why health minister responds to SooToday but not to him

‘The priorities on this file are completely backwards’ - Mayor Matthew Shoemaker

1:53 p.m. Wednesday update

Mayor Matthew Shoemaker has referenced this SooToday article in an afternoon tweet on the social media platform X, wondering why our news outlet has better luck getting responses from Ontario health minister Sylvia Jones than he does.

“I wish ⁦‪@CitySSM‬⁩ could get a response as quickly as ⁦‪@SooToday‬⁩ has to the numerous letters and outreach we’ve made to Minister Jones and the Ministry of Health,” the mayor tweeted.

SooToday published an article at 9:37 p.m. last night about some sharp criticisms expressed by Shoemaker at this week’s city council meeting.

At 7:37 a.m. today, exactly 10 hours later and well outside normal office hours, we received a response from the minister’s office.

“Reaching out to provide comment, perhaps more of a clarification to your article,” Hannah Jensen, the minister’s deputy director of communications, told us.

"If you update your story, you can attribute the comments to myself as a spokesperson for the minister of health,” Jensen said.

“Perhaps press coverage is of greater concern than solutions,” the mayor said in his tweet. ​



9:10 a.m. Wednesday update

Hannah Jensen, spokesperson for Ontario health minister Sylvia Jones, has provided the following response to Mayor Shoemaker's comments on our city's physician shortage:

To clarify the mayor's comments, in addition to building two new medical schools, in fact our government is also launching the largest expansion of medical school education seats in over 15 years – adding new undergraduate and residency positions at all six of Ontario's medical schools, including at NOSM [Northern Ontario School of Medicine University].

As part of this expansion, NOSM received 44 new undergraduate and 63 new residency positions, more details here.

We have also expanded the Northern Ontario Resident Streamline Training and Reimbursement program which is particularly popular at NOSM.

Additionally, as part of our government's historic expansion of interdisciplinary primary care teams, Sault Ste. Marie is receiving funding for two new and expanded teams to connect over 8,000 people to primary care.

Finally, it is important to note that even though Group Health Centre notified the ministry to their plans just a week before that planned to inform the patients this decision, we still tried to work with them on solutions and we continue to have those on going conversations. 

Original story - 9.39 p.m. Tuesday

Mayor Matthew Shoemaker gave Doug Ford's Government of Ontario a choleric piece of his mind yesterday.

With 10,000 Group Health Centre patients two weeks away from losing their family doctors, the mayor blistered the backside of the provincial health ministry for claiming "there is no concern of a diminished supply of physicians."

The ministry statement was made in arbitration proceedings with the Ontario Medical Association over physician compensation, but Shoemaker and city councillors voted unanimously last night in favour of a resolution calling on the government to acknowledge our local doctor shortage and to ensure every Ontarian has access to physician care.

"On Jan. 25th of this year, the Group Health Centre announced that 10,000 patients are going to be de-rostered effective May 31," the mayor said.

"Since then, it has only been bad news in terms of physician recruitment. First, there is a lot of commentary on the impact that the capital gains changes will have from the federal government on physicians practising in Canada, so that is making it more difficult to retain physicians.

"Second, the province won't negotiate an agreement with the Ontario Medical Association to fairly compensate physicians as they have properly done in British Columbia and I think Alberta was the other province.

"Instead, the province went to arbitration with the Ontario Medical Association, saying things like there is no concern for diminished supply of physicians in Ontario.

"That's not the Ontario we live in," Shoemaker said.

"The Ontario we live in up here in the north has a serious concern on diminished supply. It's like we're not part of the equation.

"The province really needs to return to the bargaining table and check what areas of Ontario they're talking about. Because I suspect if you ask any municipality in Ontario, they'd have a concern about diminished supply of physicians, not just in northern Ontario."

"So instead of adding physicians to a place like NOSM [Northern Ontario School of Medicine University], that is graduating more family physicians than any other med school in the country, they're building a new medical school in Vaughan.

"Nonsensical, if you ask me. There is a lot wrong on this file. And I think it all goes to show that the priorities on this file are completely backwards. This is hopefully one in a series of motions that will be passed by municipalities across the province urging them to get their head out of the sand on this file," the mayor said.

Also stunned by the province's failure to recognize the seriousness of our doctor shortage is Ward 5 Coun. Corey Gardi.

"That comment that there's no concern of a diminished supply of physicians – I don't like to think that the provincial government could be that out of touch," Gardi said.

"But when you go around cavalierly using language and statements as irresponsible as that, you kind of get a sense that they may very well be [out of touch], at least in terms of this file."

"It's a shame that we had to to call attention to it because you think they'd know by now about the struggles across the province, especially in northern Ontario, but I guess they don't know."

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David Helwig

About the Author: David Helwig

David Helwig's journalism career spans seven decades beginning in the 1960s. His work has been recognized with national and international awards.
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