Millroy: Group Health Centre Couldn’t Do Anything Else

There is harsh criticism being thrown at the Group Health Centre these days for derostering 10,000 patients, some of them former steelworkers who paid good bucks to found the renowned medical operation back in 1963.

The United Steelworkers local has gone so far as to announce that it is considering legal action over GHC’s derostering decision

Criticism is also being hurled at the provincial government for not coming up with a solution to what is going to quickly become a crisis, not only in the Sault but elsewhere.
I am not partaking in the criticism of either the GHC or the government.

The way I look at it, the GHC couldn’t do anything else considering it was losing so many doctors. If you don’t have the bodies, you can’t provide the service. It doesn’t, or shouldn’t, take a Rhodes scholar to figure that one out.

The GHC has actually been running on borrowed time for several years. Doctors who had retired returned to help out. Some of them who are now leaving again are in their seventies and deserve our appreciation for their return to service. They have more then earned their right to retirement.

In regard to the provincial government, I consider the criticism somewhat misplaced. After all, the government of Doug Ford did open the door to 100 more medical students in the Northern Ontario School of Medicine and any way you cut it, the rot in our medical system began long before it came to power.

The NDP government of Bob Rae in 1993 accepted the findings of a report by health economists Morris Barer and Greg Stoddart which found that “there were too many doctors” and suggested cutting medical school enrolment by 10 percent. To paint a picture as to the result of going along with this report, the first-year medical-school class at the University of Toronto dropped from 252 to 177.

The Conservative government of Mike Harris, which ousted Rae and the NDP in 1995, increased the number of first-year medical students in Ontario from 532 to 692, not quite making up the shortfall.
And then in 2015, under the Liberal government of Kathleen Wynne, our medical services took another hit, Health Minister Eric Hoskins announcing that 50 residency positions were to be eliminated when hundreds of thousands of people didn’t have a family doctor.
Some critics are pointing to British Columbia as the model for what can be done to alleviate the shortage of doctors, mainly family physicians.

Premier David Eby says the province is tripling the number of seats in the Practice Ready Assessment program, going from 32 spots to 96 by March 2024.

The program allows internationally-educated family doctors to become licensed to work in B.C, placing them in rural and urban communities who need more physicians and requiring they work that placement for at least three years.

In another change, Eby says international medical graduates who are not eligible to be fully or provisionally licensed in B.C. may now be eligible for a new “associate physician” class of registration with the College of Physicians and Surgeons of B.C.

Associate physicians can care for patients under the direction and supervision of an attending physician within a health authority acute-care setting.

Eby said the regulatory college is also preparing bylaw changes to allow doctors trained in the United States for three years to practise in community settings in B.C., including urgent and primary care centres, community clinics and family practices.

This pretty well fits in with what John Marrack, a GHC physician, expressed in a letter to Premier Ford.
“I am reliably informed that there are in excess of 40 foreign trained physicians residing in the Soo,” he said in his letter.

“The joke circulating is that you are more likely to get timely medical attention in Canadian Tire than you are at the Sault Area Hospital as there is almost always a fully qualified doctor and nurse working there.”
Marrack says government has made it more difficult for physicians from anywhere abroad to obtain a licence here whereas he believes foreign-trained doctors already here must be fast tracked into the system as soon as possible.

He will have a lot of support from the general public for that thought.

I certainly am of the same mind because when it comes to recruiting doctors from other communities rather than those just out of grad school, I have pangs of conscience. In taking doctors away from elsewhere in the province, we are leaving those communities with the same problem we are facing.
I can go along with fast-tracking foreign-trained doctors who are already here because they have chosen on their own to leave their native land.

I applaud the provincial government for adding 100 new openings for medical students with the Northern Ontario School of Medicine but this must be done at all medical schools.

However, the reality must be accepted that this will not be a quick fix. Graduates will not be in a working environment on the family-physician front for about 10 years.

Marrack points out that students leaving high school, age 18 or 19, must do a four-year degree, four years medical school and two years residency before becoming qualified for family practise, which means they start work when nearing 30. At least 50 percent are female, many of whom might have reproduction on their mind.

There are currently 17 medical schools in Canada with an annual admission success rate normally below 7.5%. As of 2021, approximately 11,500 students were enrolled in Canadian medical schools graduating 2,900 students per year.

That sounds good, but we have fallen so far behind in producing doctors and with the yearly immigration total now sitting at 500,000, the crisis we are facing will continue.
And criticism of those in the system will do nothing to abate it.

2 thoughts on “Millroy: Group Health Centre Couldn’t Do Anything Else

  1. It’s past time for the unnamed secret billionaire owners of this polluting cash cow to fund a new medical facility and recruit the staff.
    After all it’s them that are slowly killing everyone in the city and beyond with the exorbitant amounts of airborne poison particulate and water pollution, 24/7/365, whether they are employees or not, as their constant pollution poison output does not discriminate.

  2. In addition, a key problem is that many Canadian medical school graduates cannot get residencies in Canada, while many residencies are being given to others from countries like Oman, Kuwait, and Saudi Arabia who pay a great deal of money. The countries of these trainees then require them to return to their home countries when they’re done. Even with the payments from those countries, Canadian taxpayers still contribute toward the cost of training these doctors who must then leave our country. It’s a great deal for the med schools, not so much for Canadians. CBC had an informative article (“Foreign doctors take up more medical residency spots as Canadians struggle to get in”) in Oct 2023.

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