Crisis: Doctors shortage draws Friday protest

What if there’s no doctor in the house?

It’s a question no doubt on the minds of about 300 people who turned out to protest outside the office of Sault MPP Ross Romano Friday.

The group, represented by various Sault Ste. Marie area unions, are calling for provincial action in the wake of last month’s announcement by the Group Health Centre that 10,000 patients will be de-rostered May 31 of this year. 

Another 6,000 patients may de-rostered if more doctors leave GHC.

Protesters from USW 2251 Algoma Steel, Ontario Public Service Employees Union, USW 9548 Tenaris and several others want the province to take immediate action and stem what they say is a potential health crisis in Sault Ste. Marie.


“We’re trying to drive home that there’s a doctors shortage in Sault Ste. Marie and the fact that the funding has changed,” said Michele McCleave-Kennedy, President of the Sault Ste. Marie and District Labour Council. “The steelworkers put the Group Health Centre together in the early ‘60s and at that time, the funding was to the GHC and the patients stayed at the Centre. If the doctor left the money stayed for other patients to still have service through other doctors. Now that’s not the case. The funding is different and a doctors leaves the money is going to Ministry of Health”

We’re here rallying because as we know, 10,000 people have just been released from Group Health, we have doctors shortage, and we need to have service for those people.”

More than 2.3 million Ontarians don’t have a family doctor.

On the heels of the Jan. 25 at GHC, The Ontario Medical Association said primary care in Northern Ontario is in crisis.

“What’s happening in Sault Ste. Marie is devastating, said OMA President, Dr. Andrew Park. “This is a preview of what’s to come across Ontario if we don’t take action now.”

The Northern Ontario School of Medicine says more than 350 physicians are being actively recruited by Northern Ontario communities but with half of the current physicians in the region expected to retire in the next five years, primary care in the north stands to get worse.

“For 50 years, the Group Health Centre was fine,” said Mike De Prat, President of USW 2251. “Then they got a new governance model from the Wynn government, but the Conservatives aren’t skating, because they kept it going.” 

Da Prat, who is among the 10,000 patients to be de-rostered, says both the Liberal government and the Conservative government failed to be proactive to head off issues everyone else could see approaching.

He adds that MP Romano plans to launch a health care commission but the issue is too urgent.

“We don’t need a commission,” said Da Prat. “There was a CBC article about how many hundreds of Canadians have trained outside the country, lots of them in Australia, that can’t come back, because they won’t let them in. That could be done immediately.”

Da Prat and McCleave-Kennedy both say the shortage of doctors is exacerbated by the amount of paperwork they’re saddled with.

“Doctors are spending 20 hours a week doing paperwork,” McCleave-Kennedy said. “They could have assistants doing that, and it would alleviate some of the issues with a doctor’s workload.”

“They could be seeing patients, not filling out forms. That’s the conservative government again,” said Da Prat.

The protest along Elgin and Bay Streets wound up at 1 p.m.

A short time later, McCleave-Kennedy was among a group of about 30 protesters who made a stop at the Quattro Hotel and Conference Centre.

She said Romano was in a meeting at Quattro while the protest was on and the group hoped to meet with him. However, Quattro is a unionized establishment and McCleave-Kennedy said the group did not want to “fracture relationships” and did not enter the building.

One thought on “Crisis: Doctors shortage draws Friday protest

  1. In this tiny ever shrinking poorly managed dying city, protesting (especially outside the Polkaroo’s office) is akin to peeing into the wind, a complete waste of time.
    The young are moving away in record numbers as the dying village fills up with immigrants that there are no decent jobs or housing for, let alone us.
    It will be a retirement town at best, if people can even afford the ridiculous cost of living and taxes, to live in a heavily polluted town that makes people sick and die because the greedy government allowing the steel mill to output 10X the amount poison that they should.
    Keep it up Corrupt Moron Trudeau, kill the economy, poison more Canadians in the name of greed.

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