Physician and Healthcare worker shortages are a hot topic for most of Canada, especially here in northwestern Ontario where most hospitals are facing Emergency Department closures.  

Eric Melillo, MP for the Kenora riding, believes the federal government should be doing more to help with the healthcare crisis.  

In an interview with Q104, Melillo said “It is certainly an urgent concern for me. The bottom line is that we need equitable access to healthcare services in northwestern Ontario.”  

“It’s something that has traditionally been in the provincial jurisdiction, but I think the [COVID-19] pandemic has shown us that there is a much greater need for federal partnership to support healthcare beyond financial transfers.” 

Melillo credited barriers to recent immigrant healthcare workers and the lack of housing in northwestern Ontario as two of the main reasons we have such a hard time finding healthcare staff.  

“I am advocating for a streamlined process to ensure our recent immigrants who are trained and qualified to work in our hospitals can have their education recognized much easier.” 

“But we also have to look at housing. It is impossible to keep people in our region if they have nowhere to live. Ensuring that we can build more affordable housing units while also making it easier for developers to enter the market.” 

“I will help to increase the housing supply which will allow our community to grow and retain staff.”  

Melillo stressed that there is much to be done in order to fix the current staffing issues, “There is obviously much more that we should be working on concurrently, and I am looking forward to more conversations with our local hospital staff to identify those issues and the solutions.” 

“We have to address them,” he concluded.  

Melillo is not the first local politician to voice these concerns, on July 6, 2022, Sol Mamakwa, MPP for the Kiiwetinoong riding, shared his thoughts on the possible closures through the region by penning a letter to Sylvia Jones, Deputy Premier and Minister of Health.  

In the letter, Mamakwa encouraged the government to take a close look at ways they can help to relieve the medical staff of rural medical facilities that are facing these shortages. Mamakwa suggested that the government:  

  • Work with the Ontario Medical Association (OMA) to create a system of incentives to recruit physicians to northwestern Ontario.   

  • Incentivize internationally trained physicians to work in the North by expediting their ability to gain their license.   

  • Work with the Northern Ontario School of Medicine (NOSM) to incentivize postgraduate trainees to complete their residency in northern Ontario.   

Just in the last few weeks, both the Lake of the Woods District Hospital and the Meno Ya Win Health Centre have warned the public that Emergency Department closures will most likely happen this summer due to physician shortages.  

Last week, Red Lake Margaret Cochenour Memorial Hospital was expected to have its second closure of the year but luckily, a LOCUM physician stepped up and agreed to work through the 12-hour period that they would have been closed.