Sudbury patient sick of virtual appointments

For Sudbury's Karen Haslam, going to the doctor is often a last resort.

“I try home remedies -- anything else first -- before going to a doctor," Haslam said.

"But having said that, through the COVID it's even been a little more difficult because I’ve always had to wait to get an appointment, but now even just for a phone call appointment it takes three weeks."

Her family doctor, like many in the province, is only seeing patients virtually. For some, that means over Zoom or Skype, for others like Haslam, it's simply a phone call.

“It’s really hard to describe to a doctor where you’re hurting and what’s going on when you’re talking over the telephone," Haslam said. "How do you point to the direction that needs attention?”

Ontario’s top health officials are siding with patients like Haslam. On Wednesday, a letter was sent to physicians across the province encouraging the resumption of in-person visits.

"While virtual care has enabled access to care during the pandemic, given broad vaccination coverage and fully accessible PPE, COVID-19 should no longer pose a barrier to in-person practice,” the letter said.

Ontario's chief medical officer of health, the Ministry of Health and the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario all say in-person care can be provided safely again.

Nickel Belt MPP France Gelinas said the letter has been in the works for a while. Gelinas said she knew it was only a matter of time because she continues to receive complaints from constituents unhappy with the care currently being provided in the province.

“We need to find a new balance between virtual care and in-person (care), because right now we are not meeting Ontarians' expectations in many fields," she said.

"I gave the example of cancer, but same thing -- a mom should not have to bring her child to the emergency room at Health Sciences North because of an earache."

Gelinas said it's one thing to tell physicians what to do and another to work with them. She’s calling on the Ford government to listen to doctors so they can work together to improve care for patients in Ontario.