NewsReport Urges Province to Address Rural Healthcare Disparities

Report Urges Province to Address Rural Healthcare Disparities

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TORONTO, ON – A recent report presented at the Rural Ontario Municipal Association (ROMA) conference in Toronto has called on the province to take immediate action to improve healthcare services in rural areas. Titled “Fill the Gaps Closer to Home,” the paper puts forward 22 recommendations aimed at enhancing primary health and mental healthcare services in rural communities.

Highlighting the disproportionate impact of Ontario’s healthcare crisis on rural regions, the report notes that rural Ontarians are losing primary care providers at a rate of 12% per year, a rate four times faster than their urban counterparts. An alarming 525,000 rural residents are currently without a primary care provider.

Despite contributing over $480 million to health and social service programs, rural municipalities in Ontario face significant challenges, including shortages of primary care providers and mental health resources, frequent closures of emergency departments, and acute shortages in healthcare workers and recruitment. The report also emphasizes the considerable travel time required for rural residents to access essential services.

Among the 22 recommendations, specific requests to the province include the creation of new and integrated models for deploying healthcare providers effectively in rural areas, uploading a substantial portion of healthcare costs from rural communities to the provincial government, expanding the scope of practice for community healthcare providers, and ensuring the inclusion of municipalities in Ontario Health Teams.

Prince Edward County Mayor Steve Ferguson emphasized the proactive measures taken by some rural communities, citing Health PULSE – Partners United in Local Solutions for Everyone – as an example of collaborative efforts. However, he stressed the need for provincial support.

The report, backed by surveys of rural municipal leaders and paramedic chiefs, interviews with key stakeholders, and in-depth analysis of public data and reports, concludes that these changes can be implemented promptly, with some communities already initiating collaborative efforts aligned with the report’s recommendations. The pressing need for provincial support in these initiatives remains a common plea from rural communities striving to address healthcare challenges at the local and regional levels.

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