In a black and white photograph, a group of people, including doctors and nurses, stand in an operating room watching a doctor perform an operation. The clothes and hairstyles of the people in the room suggest the photo was taken in the mid-twentieth century.

Kitchener Centre by-election: candidates discuss how they will attract medical professionals to the riding

Whether you believe the Ford government is helping or hurting the healthcare system in Ontario, there is no question that the system is struggling with demand and labour shortages, among others. Earlier this year, the Region of Waterloo announced plans for a new hospital to meet the demands of a growing population.

However, as the Ontario College of Family Physicians recently noted that in September 2022, there were almost 79 000 people in the Region who did not have a family doctor. The College predicted that in a little over three years’ time, this number could double to 150,000, or about one-third of the local population.

To accommodate this, Health Force Ontario estimated that the Region will need at least 76 doctors, while the Waterloo Region Health Coalition estimates at least 140 nurses are needed.

With the Kitchener Centre by-election happening this week on November 30, CKMS took the opportunity to ask the four front-runner candidates that with these serious shortages and rapidly increasing population, what will they do to ensure the Region can attract these health professionals to the area to meet our current and future needs?

The four main candidates are Rob Elliott of the Progressive Conservatives, Debbie Chapman of the NDP, Kelly Steiss of the Ontario Liberal party, and Aislinn Clancy of the Ontario Greens.

Three attempts over 10 days were made to contact the Progressive Conservative candidate Rob Elliot, but we did not hear back from the PCs in time for broadcast.

First up is Debbie Chapman of the NDP, invoking the name of Tommy Douglas to establish the NDP’s credentials in public healthcare. Chapman is against privatization and notes that it extracts resources from public system. She notes there is a clear shortage of doctors, and much of that responsibility lies with the College of Physicians and Surgeons, who, she believes, need to admit more doctors into the profession. Ms. Chapman said we need to do more to encourage bridging programs for foreign doctors, and that we need to be concerned about nurses and their health so they don’t encounter working conditions like what transpired during the pandemic. Chapman says that private nursing agencies will destroy the public health care system.

Aislinn Clancy of the Green Party says that the government flushed money away by taking the nurses to court. She talked about how agency nurses are very expensive and undermining the public system. She said to deal with staff shortages, we need more spaces for doctors to be trained, encourage more people to take the training, find better opportunities for bridging programs, and provide support for doctors by encouraging them to work in multidisciplinary teams that would relieve their workload.

The Liberals have placed healthcare at the centre of their platform. The liberal candidate for Kitchener Centre, Kelly Steiss, said municipalities need to build infrastructure and support arts and culture to create a thriving city. Liberals support public funding and believe the government is putting the health care system risk.

Chapman and Clancy noted they want to find ways to enable foreign trained medical professionals to work in the riding in their chosen profession. While Chapman and Clancy focused entirely on the system, increasing medical school admissions and restricting private nursing agencies, among other ideas, Steiss also talked about improving the riding through increasing things like infrastructure and arts and culture to increase the desire to live here. The three parties we talked to all disagree with privatization.

This is one in a series of shows about the Kitchener Centre by-election in which we ask candidates some of the lesser-asked questions that are important to our community.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.