The City of Sault Ste. Marie will lobby the provincial government for a $4 million permanent base funding increase for NOSM (Northern Ontario School of Medicine).
It’s a motion brought forward to council Monday night by Ward 4 Coun. Stephan Kinach and Ward 5 Coun. Matthew Scott. It passed unanimously.
“This is a motion that speaks to a significant need, not just in our community but in communities of our neighbors across Northern Ontario,” Mayor Matthew Shoemaker told council. “As a result of becoming an independent university, the first non-affiliated medical university in all of Canada (NOSM) is staring down a significant budget shortfall,” Shoemaker said.
In June 2021, the provincial government passed legislation making NOSM a university. Associated needs and costs with that accreditation have created a budget shortfall. The Mayor stressed NOSM graduates stay in Northern Ontario at a much higher rate than their peers south of the North Bay border. Access to family physicians and specialists will be significantly hampered in the North, he said, if NOSM is forced to
scale back things like internships and residencies
“Without doctors, we can’t do economic development. We can’t do quality of life,” said Shoemaker. “(Doctors) are one of the first things businesses ask about when they come looking at Sault Ste. Marie as a place to do business.” he added.
The request seeks funding to meet the identified shortfall and approve the base funding increase before the end of the 2023-24 fiscal year.
“We must be supporting of a Northern Ontario medical school,” said Coun. Kinach. “We’re already hearing in the news, almost weekly through the summer emergency room closures all over Ontario. The Group Health Centre is releasing patients because they cannot replace retiring family doctors,”
Kinach says med schools are currently not producing enough graduates to keep pace with population growth. “We’re supposed to be providing and looking out for our citizens must address this issue at the municipal level, to put pressure on federal and provincial governments to take this problem seriously and to come up with an actual solution. If not, people are going to be dying. That’s the bottom line.”
Coun. Scott agreed and said $4 million is probably less a burden for the province than the issues that arise out of a shortage of doctors. “We need to keep our foot on the gas” to pressure government and “do whatever we can” to support doctors in the north.
Currently, one in eight Northern Ontario residents don’t have access to a family doctor. Many residents have to travel long distances to receive healthcare services. Rural, Indigenous and Francophone communities are among the most under-served.
NOSM’s educational model requires that the school build and maintain strong ties to
those under-served groups