Something has to change in Ontario health care

Ontario needs more doctors.

Effective Aug. 26, Kingston Health Sciences Centre’s Urgent Care Centre (UCC) at Hotel Dieu Hospital began reducing its weekend hours of operation due to a shortage of doctors. The number of emergency medicine physicians wasn’t sufficient to staff both the UCC and the Emergency Department (ED) at Kingston General Hospital.

Concerningly, this decision was based on the hospitals’ usage during the summertime. The incoming student population will only place additional stress on Kingston’s emergency services.

Worse, not only Kingston residents, but those in surrounding rural areas—who rely on Kingston’s emergency services and their weekend availability for medical care—will be affected.

UCC’s reduced hours reflect a broader trend in increased unplanned emergency room closures caused by insufficient staffing and unbearable strain on existing medical personnel.

In 2022, Ontario documented the unplanned closure of 145 emergency medical facilities. Prior to last year, only one ER in the province was documented as being closed due to insufficient staff in 16 years.

The severe shortage of primary health care physicians in Ontario is causing patients to flock in large numbers to emergency rooms for problems that would otherwise be cared for by their family doctors.

As Ontarians go longer without primary health care, the demand for emergency departments will only grow. The symptoms of those suffering with chronic illnesses left untreated will worsen, and in some cases will lead to additional health complications . For others, illnesses will arise and progress undiagnosed until severe enough to require drastic intervention.

Rather than closing medical facilities when it’s no longer possible for staff to keep up, let’s address root causes.

The provincial government needs to provide incentives for medical students to practice primary and emergency medicine. Working conditions for current healthcare staff must be improved to make medicine sustainable for those practicing now and appealing to those considering it in the future.

Queen’s School of Medicine and Lakeridge Health have created the Queen’s-Lakeridge Health MD Family Medicine Program, specifically designed to address the shortage of family doctors. Its graduates will be practice-ready, community-focused physicians.

Canada only has 17 medical schools, making admissions especially competitive and barring capable candidates from attending.

Ontario’s provincial government and its universities should follow the example set by the Queen’s-Lakeridge Program, which will promote primary health care and provide medical services across multiple municipalities .

Other Commonwealth nations allow students to graduate from high school and apply immediately to medical school. Doing so in Ontario would make medical school more accessible by saving aspiring medical students the cost of an additional degree.

Creating more opportunities for education in medicine is essential to remedying the shortage of healthcare providers.

Journal Editorial Board


Healthcare, Kingston, medical school, primary care

All final editorial decisions are made by the Editor(s)-in-Chief and/or the Managing Editor. Authors should not be contacted, targeted, or harassed under any circumstances. If you have any grievances with this article, please direct your comments to

Comments (36)

  • – There are 30 000 doctors in Ontario and another 30 000 foreign doctors who the CPSO (the doctor’s guild) won’t let practice in the province.
    – The average family doctor in a “family health organization” had a take home pay of $303 000 (2016 data. Who knows what it is now)

    No wonder we have a healthcare crisis. The selfish doctors here take all they can for themselves.

  • I think we should have doctor’s from every med university in Canada design a test for foreign trained doctors so they can be licensed immediately and enter the work force. I know several English speaking refugee Drs that can’t practice here because they are foreign trained. Each one could take on several hundred patients without a GP, do shifts in ERs that are closed. Why do we relegate them to Dollarama and Walmart?

  • I believe Queen’s medical school should not look into MCAT scores. There are so many qualified applicants but may be just barred getting into medical school because of the competitive scores in MCAT. Community contributions and maturity are way more important than just the MCAT marks.

  • The govt has to put more money in health rather the building roads to save 5 min ,, the conttry has to put the medical professionals back in the system, taken out because the refused to take the JAB.. We are not given any stats of people who are getting sick with the JAB as compared to those with out it. The money spent by Ford opposing nurses increases, he would rather give it to lawyers to oppose the increase

  • Dear Sir/Madam,

    I am a holder of an MD-MPH degree from Iran. In 2016, my eldest daughter was admitted to Concordia University in Montreal, Canada, for her master’s degree. Due to the political-economic situation in my country, I decided to send my twin girls to Canadian universities as well so that they could continue their education and life in a safe environment. As a researcher, I noticed some inadequacies in the Canadian health system during the initial weeks and months of my stay, which prompted me to conduct a non-systematic review. The findings were published as an article on the Canadian Open Government website. you can find it by searching my name on the website..

    However, after living in Montreal for six years and then moving to Toronto to investigate the performance of the health system in this province, I realized that the problems in Canada’s health system are related more to the management function than the performance of doctors and nurses. While the lack of healthcare professionals, especially nurses and doctors, is a significant issue, the main problem lies in the management system and policies that do not align with the needs of society. Additionally,
    1- The low health literacy rate of the people,
    2- The incomplete healthcare network system
    3- The various legal obstacles in employing specialists and doctors who have completed their education outside of Canada are also contributing factors to the inadequate provision of health and treatment services.

    Despite these challenges, I remain hopeful that the leaders of the Canadian health system are ready for change. A significant paradigm shift is needed to transition from a patient-centred health system to a people-centred one.
    Best Regards,
    Nader Ahmadi MD-MPH

  • I’m pretty sure the schools are only a small part if the equation when Canadian doctors can simply go to the US for a cheaper education and then stay in the US since doctors are much better paid and have a lot less demanding work schedules… seems like a no brainer to get out of Canada if you have skills in demand. Trudope and his NDP cronies will only take more and more from the working people.

  • This is yesterday news .. as this problem have a really well known solution which been held by who?
    The solution is to allowing IMG excellent physicians in multiple diseplenersy who come to work here as fellowship to work as a stuff after their fellowship ends. If they are good enough too solve/work/research/operate/give advise from the easiest to the most complicated cases. The rest of this comment is easy to complete.

  • I am a current specialist ICU doctor trained overseas and working as a fellow in Toronto. There are too many reasons for not considering Canada as a long term destination to me. First, I cannot work neither at local hospitals nor as a family physician as my trainning won’t be accepted.
    Overproteccion of Canadian doctors, the lack of flexibility to accept specialist physicians who can be easily adapted to family doctors and the extreme difference in salaries between specialist and GP explain part of the current situation.
    No matter how many doctors more you train, they will not choose family medicine due to the lack of social and economic value. They will choose another speciality with a renowned reputation even with less job opportunities.
    Health systems are jeopardized by the power of innovation, as doctors, universities and society are lured by new sophisticated and expensive treatments, governments are struggling to pay those extremely expensive innovations leaving behind the consecuences of that: more elderly people and more chronic patients who actually have other needs and nobody wants to address that problem. That does not give neither revenue nor social recognition. Reputable universities, medical associations and governments need to address the present and the future of Medicine itself and think about what the priorities are in our Health Systems.
    Smartphone technology was invented in the 90s but not developed until the market was ready. In Health Care, that market does not exist, we are requiring to our governments going to Moon for every single person in the planet no matter the costs. The costs are taking its toll on all health systems which are actually wrecking havoc.

  • Jackie Mackenzie BScN RN

    I am a health care provider and agree we need more doctors but we have an opportunity now to utilize RNs, perhaps retired nurses, to assist in triaging patients to take the load off doctors. This is doable. The RNAO is proposing to forward the utilization of RNs to prescribe as well as ordering treatment plans and meds for certain patients.

  • Ontario needs to be proactive and bring back the Canadians who are studying outside Canada and encourage them to get residency seats in Canada. Increase the number of residency seats.
    Support out of province doctors to work in Ontario with “n” number of Canadian experience. CPSO is splitting hair, unrealistic rules for experienced doctors stating that the licence isn’t equivalent to ON licence!

  • The government restricts the numbers of students accepted to med schools on purpose. If they cared about constitutents having access to health care, those numbers would have been increased years ago. They amalgamated separate hospitals all over the province into “systems” so that over 15 years they could close half the hospitals all together. Then they instituted MAID to reduce health care spending by ending lives. Now they end lives of complex patients in hospitals rather than spend dollars saving lives through surgery and rehab.
    Time to open our eyes to the truth.

  • A greater problem is College of Physicians and Surgeons is allowing unqualified ‘doctors’ to practise in Canada.
    Health Care Connects referred me to my doctor, who, during my first appointment with her, stated that she is not actually legally licensed to be a doctor in Canada. She took her medical training in Cayan, St. Kitts, refused to attend Canadian required courses and sit for the big exams, and just waited until the east coast of Canada was desperate for drs, and slid right in. When Ontario became desperate, slid right over. I called my contact Emily at Health Care Connects, and when I asked her if she knew my doctor was not legally licensed to practise in Canada, she took a breath and said “ya, I know”. When I asked how, she couldn’t explain it. When Emily went on mat leave, I spoke to the rep covering for her, and she also confirmed that they knew this about the doctor.
    Please contact me for more, so much more.

  • Community based primary care is the worst job in medicine. The pay is poor, the hours are long and the complexity/difficulty and responsibility is crushing. Imagine being forced to run a business whereby you have only one customer and that customer decides IF they are going to pay you and what they are going to pay you but you have to pay overhead expenses that increase at inflationary market forces. Years of fee cuts and subinflationary increases while overhead increases by 5% per year or more lead to working harder every year for less. It is human nature to try to better one’s situation for the benefit of themselves and their families. Doctors are human beings. People pay 3-4X per year more for car insurance than their family physician gets paid to look after them per year. This is a failed business model and, unless the trend over the past 40 years of paying family physicians less to do more is reversed, the avoidance of and the exodus from community based family practice will continue. It doesn’t matter if family practice residents who graduate from the program are practice ready and community focused…most will graduate from this program and still avoid setting up community based family practices.

  • The government needs to offered incentives to attract the young at heart to consider health care as a profession.

    They should allowed high school graduates to to go straight into medical schools creating an opportunity for them to become medical professionals saving them the added expense ( they can go to college while they work) so they can help out the healthcare crisis and saved lives in Canada.

  • I had some serious issues with my back legs and hips during Covid-19’s days, and couldn’t see any doctors, now 2023 I was diagnosed with advanced degenerative osteoarthritis in both hips, I’ve been working with no cartilage for years, and two months ago, I was told I’ll be having surgery within 3-6 months, I haven’t heard from any professional and I understand, there are more serious cases out there, may God help us all, sincerely Rita

  • The Ontario government has ruined our health care the Oremier should resign we do nit need a liar no doctors nurses Fird resign we do nit need you you are ruining our Province we need great hospitals nit the crsp you are doing do us a big favor RESIGN NOW YOU HAVE RUINED OUR PROVINCE AND WHAT ABOUT GREENBELT YOU ARE DUSCUSSING KEAVE AS SOON AS POSSIBLE GIVI G TO YOUR RICH FRUENDS RUI IBG THE GREENBELT AND OUR MIST IMOIRTANT HOSPITALS

  • It’s the same on Lake Huron. In Goderich and surrounding areas, there are no available GPs and only a couple of clinics with very limited hours that are within a hour’s drive. The local walk-in clinic is private and only takes members – and at last look it had a 6 YEAR waiting list! There are people who have wanted to add a new clinic to the town, but they have stated on the town Facebook page that the current clinic has an exclusive contract with the city! But that still doesn’t change that you have to go more than an hour’s drive to find any clinic at all with normal, daily daytime hours.

    Sometimes people just need prescriptions renewed. Sometimes they need a blood test to verify a medication is doing its job. And then there are the more complicated needs. Limiting the number of doctors may limit provincial costs but it also prevents people from making wellness appointments to stay healthy, so they only get treatment as they become ill.

    This needs to stop! People outside the big cities have a right to proper healthcare and the province isn’t fulfilling their duty.

  • We can spend billions on BS and send money to other countries.

    People are lined upon the streets at Services Canada to get a Canadian education. Then the US poaches them once they are trained.

  • Connect the dots people….come on! Critical thinking 101….you can’t fire a whole bunch of hospital workers of various jobs…ie. Dr’s, nurses, porters, cleaning staff, dietians, etc and expect the hospitals to run properly. All in the name of forcing people to take an unproven vaccine that has now PROVEN to be detrimental to MANY people! Wake up people! Connect the dots

  • It’s not just doctors and nurses, it’s technologists too. Doug Ford wants privatized facilities to provide out patient CT and MRI, but there are severe tech shortages at the hospitals. Who will staff these out patient facilities? Or worse yet will these private clinics woo the few techs in the hospitals away with bigger paychecks? We are struggling as it is…..we need more staff.

  • We need the proceeds from OLG dedicated only to health care. Stop throwing the money away on charitable organizations. Let them depend on public donations

  • I have seen these problems with our health care for a long time , wait times at emerg keep getting longer . Sometimes people in pain dont even see a doctor and just give up , and head home . Its very sad . My wife is facing some real medical problems for the past 3 years , she has chronic pain since the moment she wakes up . Indemitriosis and adenomiosis . We cant have a child , and were not getting the help we need fast enough . It feels like a waste of time at this point to even try , we just get sent from doctor to doctor which takes 3 months to be seen by one anyways . Healthcare ? Ya , what a joke , more like lackofcare

  • Seems that Canada is eroding the public Healthcare system. More private clinics are popping up. Won’t be long til another ‘tax’ line will appear on our forms. Either that, or more likely, we’ll slide into a pay for insurance system.

  • It’s time for preventative medicine and more education..The government should stop developing Pavlov dependence on Alopathic medicine and promote health education starting from childcare…prevention prevention prevention…plus there are other healing modalities that should be utilized..Naturopathy Homeopathy Osteopathy Chiropractic and Herbal medicines..Hospitals should be reserved only for serious conditions but when citizens are becoming dependent, uneducated and paranoid crowd, it is the result of how our government and the ones in control redirecting the funds ..people loose abilities to critically think and make decisions for themselves.

  • Many have lost faith in how the healthcare system has been run the past 3 years… Don’t define a pandemic with something less then a 1% death rate you may find after all your work that you killed more then helped 😅 do no harm and all that…

  • Perhaps eliminating several layers of redundant middle management could introduce more funding into the system to achieve the necessary goals. As they say,we have the greatest system in the world, until you use it.

  • It is not surprising that there is a doctor shortage. And it will only get worse. I blame this on the Federal Government for their failure to foresee the healthcare staff shortage. Just look at population levels at differing age groups to see this would happen. Leaving it to the federal govt., is insane. They never seem to get anything right.

  • The next time you go to the hospital, ask the others in the triage line why they are there. Many will say they have the flu, or a cough, or perhaps they sprained there ankle.
    All things that should wait for a family doctor. Yes we could use more qualified family doctors, but our medical industry is anything BUT broken.
    The only reason why it’s in the news is that it sells papers.
    We need to go back to a time when news was factual.

  • The shortage of healthcare providers in Ontario is undeniably a pressing issue, and as someone deeply involved in the field of healthcare, I share the concern outlined in this article. The reduction in weekend hours at healthcare facilities due to a lack of doctors not only affects immediate access to medical care but also places additional strain on emergency services. It is evident that addressing the root causes of this shortage is paramount. Incentivizing medical students to pursue primary and emergency medicine, improving working conditions for healthcare professionals, and creating innovative programs like the Queen’s-Lakeridge Health MD Family Medicine Program are all steps in the right direction. Moreover, exploring ways to make medical school more accessible and inclusive is crucial to ensure a steady supply of healthcare providers. Ontario’s healthcare system requires a comprehensive strategy to address these challenges and ensure that patients receive the care they deserve.

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