Horwath vows to address family doctor shortage in ROMA speech

Official Opposition NDP Leader Andrea Horwath is vowing to address the family doctor shortage plaguing rural communities in Ontario.

Horwath made the commitment Monday in a wide-ranging speech at the Rural Ontario Municipal Association’s annual conference, where she also spoke about the need for increased investments in rural communities including emergency operational funding, 100 per cent provincial funding of public health costs, action on rural broadband, and investments in rural schools after a decade of cuts and closures.

“Before the pandemic arrived, rural families already found it tough to find a family doctor close to home, and for a lot of folks, fears that an ambulance or doctor won’t be there when you need them run deep,” said Horwath.

“I’m pushing for a health care hero retention and hiring blitz, to tackle not just the COVID-related shortage that is debilitating hospitals across the province, but also finally address the doctor shortage that has been plaguing rural communities for years. It’s time for a government that invests in rural municipalities, and works alongside them as partners, so we can preserve and expand the services folks count on so we can come out of this pandemic stronger.”

Premier Doug Ford’s underspending in the first half of the 2021-22 fiscal year rang in at $4.3 billion, according to the Financial Accountability Office, including $604 million less for public health, and $289 million cut from municipal infrastructure. Ford is still in the midst of cutting public health units to 10 from 35.

“Doug Ford was making cuts to municipal funding before the pandemic, he’s cutting now, and he will cut even more in the future. Small, Northern and rural municipalities can’t take any more cuts — they were hit hardest by decades of cuts and downloading by both Conservative and Liberal governments, and are still living with their legacy today,” said Horwath. “It’s time for a premier that believes in rural Ontario, and invests in its people and its promise.”

Andrea Horwath