SOUTH DUNDAS – The lack of new doctors moving into rural areas of Ontario is not a new problem, but it is one that is worsening. Retirements, and the strain of the two-year long COVID-19 pandemic prompting burnout is exacerbating the situation.
Since 2020, a joint committee of the Municipality of South Dundas and the Township of South Stormont has been working together to recruit more doctors and health professionals to move and stay in the under-served communities in those two municipalities.
This week, members of that committee met with Deputy Premier and Minister of Health Christine Elliott and other provincial government officials to champion for more support for their efforts to improve accessible local health care.
Since 2020, the committee has attracted two new physicians to the region but municipal officials say more needs to be done by upper levels of government to support local efforts.
“We’re very proud of what the committee has been able to accomplish in the last two years and we will continue to work towards our goals,” said South Dundas Deputy Mayor Kirsten Gardner. “But we also need to be heard and supported by our provincial partners and that’s what we aimed to achieve today. Rural community residents deserve equal opportunity to the healthcare spectrum.”
The committee highlighted to Elliott and her staff the need for mental health services, more family practitioners, and healthcare services that extend beyond just doctors. This includes nurse-practitioners and mental health support workers.
“Access to healthcare has long been an issue in our region, and as our communities continue to grow, we must make strides toward improving the healthcare services our residents receive,” said South Stormont Mayor, Bryan McGillis. “In order to effectively do that, we need further support from all levels of government.”
The committee lobbied Elliott for more equal opportunity health care in rural areas and to bring specialty services closer to home.
After the January 24 meeting that was part of the Rural Ontario Municipal Association virtual conference, Elliott said on Twitter that she appreciated the opportunity to speak to the two municipalities.
“Our government is building a connected health care system that ensures all Ontarians have access to high quality care in their communities when they need it,” Elliott said.
The joint South Dundas/South Stormont delegation was one of nine that met with Elliott during the ROMA conference Jan. 24.