Sault Ste. Marie - The McGuinty government has introduced the largest changes in 40 years to the Underserviced Area Program (UAP), David Orazietti MPP announced today. The province is implementing the Health Force Ontario (HFO) Northern and Rural Recruitment Retention Initiative (N3R) and the HFO Postgraduate Return of Service Program in order to attract more physicians to northern and highly rural communities or to one of the five major northern centers (Thunder Bay, Sudbury, Sault Ste. Marie, North Bay and Timmins).
"It’s clear that if Northern residents are to have greater access to physicians and, if we are to have greater equity on this issue in Northern Ontario, the Under Serviced Area Program needed to be returned to its original mandate of serving those communities with greater need,” said Orazietti. “The positive changes our government has introduced today, in addition to the 38% increase in physician training spaces provincially since 2003, will allow Sault Ste. Marie to attract more physicians.”
By 2008, almost three out of every four designated “underserviced” areas were in Southern Ontario and under current program expenditures only one in five dollars spent to recruit physicians had been used to bring physicians to Northern and rural Ontario mainly due to a significantly expanded list of communities that became eligible for financial incentive grants. The UAP was originally designed to create a more level playing field for northern communities in the competition for physician services by giving them incentives not available in southern communities. Following extensive consultations across Ontario led by Sault MPP David Orazietti and colleague Glengarry-Prescott-Russell MPP Jean-Marc Lalonde, numerous changes have been approved by the McGuinty government and are to be implemented immediately.
“It is encouraging to see the UAP changing to more closely reflect its original purpose. I am encouraged that these changes will be helpful to our community as we work to recruit new physicians here,” said Ron Gagnon, President and CEO of Sault Area Hospital.
Traditionally financial incentives have been available for physicians working in communities based on a Rural Index of Ontario (RIO) score, however moving forward a base score of 40 out of 100 will be established to determine funding. Communities with a score above 40 will continue to be eligible while communities below 40 will be removed as it is understood that they have greater access to health care services and are considered to be less rural. This means that 110 communities presently on the list will be removed and no longer be eligible for these financial incentives. In the case of the five northern cities which have a RIO score below 40 they will be exempt and be eligible for the financial incentives given that they have unique challenges and are serving areas which have much higher RIO scores.
“Sault Ste. Marie faces unique challenges in the recruitment of physicians, therefore we welcome the improvements in the Underserviced Area Program. We are hopeful that the changes in the Underserviced Area Program will increase our advantage in attracting much needed physicians to our community,” said Mary Jane Yorke, Manager, SSM Physician Recruitment & Retention Program.
Key Changes to the program include:
•Removal of ‘caps’ or maximum number of specialists eligible to be
recruited to a community and eligible for financial incentives
•Reducing the number of Ontario communities by 110 that are eligible for
incentive grants in order to refocus the program
•Only specialists and family physicians in communities with a RIO score of
40 or higher will now be eligible for the N3R initiative (includes 5 northern
•The HFO Postgraduate Return of Service Program which will permit
Canadian and international medical graduates to fulfill their postgraduate
return of service commitments in any community in Ontario, except the
Greater Toronto Area and Ottawa
•Under the past program a physician practicing in a community with a RIO
score below 40 could have received up to $65,000 in provincial tuition
grants and other incentives, however with the current changes physicians
practicing in communities with a RIO score below 40 will not receive any
of the previously available incentives
•Under the new program a physician practicing in a community with a RIO
score of 40, will receive up to $80,000 in provincial tuition grants and
other incentives (includes 5 northern centers)
•Grants will reach a maximum of $117,000 for communities with a RIO
score of 100
Other McGuinty government initiatives to increase access to primary care include:
Increasing medical school spaces by 38% since 2003
Marie at Sault College – these clinics will be in place in communities
across Ontario by 2011 with an expanded scope of practice
both urban and rural parts of the province - Together, it is expected that
these 150 teams will improve access to primary health care for more than
2.5 million Ontarians in 112 communities - In addition 50 FHT more being
planned will bring the total to 200
monitor and manage chronic diseases and provide better patient care -
relieving pressure on other healthcare professionals and helping to ease
the burden on emergency departments
Read more about Health Care Connect which helps Ontarians find a family health care provider.
2004; David Orazietti, M.P.P.; All Rights Reserved.