'Doctors' Day' highlights northern shortages, burnout

The Big Nickel has been sporting a lovely tint of blue these last couple of days to honour some of our health care heroes.

May 1 marked 'Doctors' Day' in the province and 'National Physicians' Day' Canada-wide. People from all walks of life were being encouraged to thank those who keep them safe and healthy.

"It really is a moment to recognize and reflect, as you said, the past two years and the tremendous sacrifice, work and dedication and commitment that other physicians and health care providers have made," said Dr. Adam Kassam, the president of the Ontario Medical Association (OMA).

Recent surveys have found many doctors are exhausted and facing burnout in the wake of navigating Canadians through a pandemic.

It's one reason why the OMA wanted to launch a special 'thank you' campaign to thank some of them personally.

According to the organization, every day, more than 340,000 patients are seen by a doctor and northern Ontario is short more than 300 trained physicians.

"And I think with the pandemic, with the extra work, it's certainly made that even more dire. So northern Ontario is particularly susceptible - it's a canary in the coal mine for health care workers right? If it's going to go bad, it's going to go bad in northern Ontario first," said Dr. Stephen Cooper, a family physician on Manitoulin Island.

"And so this is a continued important need that these communities face and it's why the OMA has been advocating for a northern strategy and commitment by all levels of government to improve access to health care," said Kassam.

Fresh off having done a 24-hour shift in the emergency room at Wilson Memorial Hospital in Marathon, Ont., Dr. Barb Zelek told CTV News she appreciates the day and everything it stands for.

Zelek and her team at the Northern Ontario School of Medicine (NOSM University) have been working to train the next generation of doctors, in hopes of filling some of those shortages.

"And so we do need our systems and our partners, the provincial government, our national partners, to work together to address this health human resources crisis. I think that's present and will be sort of worse as we move forward unfortunately," she said.

In honour of the day, the OMA created a social media campaign with a unique set of colour tiles where people can pick the colour that best messages how they would like to thank their doctor.

It's also created filters for Facebook and Instagram.