A notice from the Ontario’s Ministry of Health, asking primary care providers to stay open seven days a week in an effort to ease wait times in hospitals, is being met with disbelief by many medical workers.
The notice was sent by Nadia Surani, the director of the primary health care branch in the Ministry of Health. It addresses the issues that are plaguing hospitals this fall, with an onslaught of COVID-19, influenza and Respiratory syncytial virus, which is expected to continue into the winter.
"I am writing to call on your support and requesting your organizations to offer clinical services 7 days a week, including evening availability, until further notice, to meet the needs of your patients,” the notice reads. “Please advise your patients of this availability so they may seek care in the appropriate place for their health concerns."
Nadia Alam is a family doctor in Georgetown, Ontario and past president of Ontario Medical Association. As she juggled a full work day and four kids at home who have respiratory syncytial virus, Alam says the notice made her feel disheartened and demoralized.
"Even though they say 'we see you're working hard, thank you for that but we need you to do more,'" she tells Yahoo News Canada. "It's tone deaf."
She says all throughout the pandemic, family doctors and nurses who work in primary care have been told they haven't been doing enough.
This isn't an isolated incident, this is an on-going narrative that we need to do more to help hospitals and ER that are overwhelmed. It's frustrating because you can't expect a subset of the healthcare system to fix what is really a healthcare system problem.Nadia Alam, family doctor in Georgetown, Ontario
On social media, many family care workers were stunned by the memo.
I'm still not sure how to react to this @ONThealth email from yesterday, requesting that primary care immediately start working 7 days/week, including evenings... for free apparently?
There is no mention of funding here, so this is literally a work more for less situation. WTF? pic.twitter.com/EttpTp9sC9
— Michelle Cohen, MD (@DocMCohen) November 22, 2022
Sylvia Jones has a lot of nerve saying everyone needs to work at full capacity during the healthcare crisis when they barely show up for work & are doing nothing to address the current crisis. #onpoli
— Lisa Wedmann @email@example.com (@Lisawedmann) November 24, 2022
This is NOT how you solve a problem. This is how you create a mass exodus.
— Shailla Vaidya MD MPH (@ShaillaVaidya) November 24, 2022
Oh cool I’ll grab my pillow & live at the office then. But I already work weekends & evenings in FM-OB. And my husband works evenings & weekends in the ER. 1 of us needs to be home for the 4 and 6 yo. Is she paying for a nanny? Or recommending that the 6 yo watch the 4 yo?
— Kristen Gogan (@KRalph22) November 23, 2022
Ministry of Health is expecting high demand this winter bc of the pandemic, but are doing NOTHING to prevent it?
Asking drs, nurses, other HC pros to cover for their inaction makes me apoplectic. It’s inhuman and puts us all at risk.
— Catharine Macdonald (@thecatharinem) November 23, 2022
It doesn't appear that @ONThealth is offering additional funding for the additional/overtime salaries of non-physician staff and expect FHTs, NPLCs, and IIPCOs to "manage from within" budgets as well as asking capitated-funded physicians to volunteer their service. ugh
— (((Vaxxed to the max))) (@Lev_Davidovitch) November 22, 2022
Seems like the goal here is to intensify burnout & force primary care providers out of business, b/c this is unsustainable...asking already exhausted workers to add on hours and work for free will not improve access to primary healthcare...maybe they don't understand how it works
— Anicca Suprun (@HomelEssdocCAN) November 23, 2022
So basically: "We saw this coming. We did nothing to stop it. So now we're asking you to work harder (and for free) to fix what we f*cked up."
Did I get that right?
— Dr. Christine Guptill (she/her) (@HealthMusicPerf) November 23, 2022
“And who supports the family doctors: nurses, admin…are they expected to also work these horrendous hours,” Instagram user meggsd99 wrote on a post that shared the province's notice. “This government is out of their minds! Most MDs are already working well above their mental, emotional and physical abilities but sure let’s burn them and support staff out even more.”
In a note to its members, the Association of Family Health Teams of Ontario followed up that many clinics across Ontario are keeping their doors open longer in order to address the high number of patients with respiratory illnesses, and that the ministry’s memo was not meant to be taken as a command.
"In discussions with the ministry, this memo was not intended to be directive nor prescriptive but was a request to communicate to your patients about how to access care, especially for sick children, with a focus on receiving care through their primary care teams first so that your patients do not seek care in the hospital if not needed," the association wrote.