Let’s Talk: First Issue of 2023. Fixing our broken access to healthcare.

Welcome to our latest Let’s Talk for Chamber Members, where we spotlight important issues affecting local businesses like yours, in a spirit of dialogue to be shared amongst us.

In this edition, we focus on health care in Ontario, which is in a state of widely-acknowledged distress, and in need of healing. It’s a situation affecting all Chamber members, families and employees plagued by medical capacity and staffing-shortage issues, as we emerge from a pandemic.

Ensuring adequate health care is critical for businesses who rely on continuity and healthy, valued workers who have the medical services they need to thrive, and stay well on the job.

To that end, our front-line medical system is falling short, with levels of governments taking notice of this crisis and initiating changes.

Help is sorely needed. The Ontario Medical Association reports that at least 1 million Ontarians do not have regular access to primary care. According to a Standard article last summer, Niagara has 255 family doctors taking patients, when it should have 345.

That shortage— aggravated by factors such as physicians leaving their practices, inadequate compensation and an underserved, growing population — is affecting the welfare of many Chamber members, employees and their families.

Accompanying this, are issues with adequate pharmacy, dental, surgery, nursing, emergency and other forms of care, as capacity and accessibility shortages squeeze the system. Indeed, the situation is troubling— as anyone who has been unable to find a family doctor, or endured delayed surgeries knows well.

In a column published Sept. 21 in Niagara newspapers, Niagara Health president and chief executive officer Lynn Guerriero said: “patients needing emergency surgeries had already been redirected from Welland to Niagara Falls and St. Catharines several times during the summer as a result of the shortage, and warned ‘patients will likely see more redirects in urgent situations to minimize the impact on service continuity.’”


The troubled health file is a big one and very expensive for the province. The 2022 Ontario Budget included a record $198.6 billion in total spending, $11 billion higher than 2021-22, including a record $75.2 billion in health spending —  although the spending amount was revised somewhat downward last year.

In the meantime, significant provincial and federal initiatives are on deck that hold promise for some relief for our shortage of doctors, health care workers and unreliable services.

Among the most significant: Ottawa has signalled major progress with premiers on a possible 10-year health care funding deal.

According to the Globe and Mail (Jan. 20, 2023), the movement to a deal included a “change in ‘tone and direction’ from the provinces and territories to accept Ottawa’s demands to modernize data sharing, reduce backlogs in surgeries and diagnostics, retrain and hire more nurses and use medical clinics to handle millions of Canadians without family doctors. A new federal political deal to broker broader dental and pharma-care may also be in the works, federally.”

Ontario is also pivoting in the direction of urgent reform — to some controversy from those concerned about the extension of private medical care. The province, (as reported by the CBC and others) is significantly expanding the number and range of medical procedures performed in privately-run clinics as the province deals with a surgical backlog made worse by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The change will be introduced over three phases. The first will see surgical and diagnostic clinics in Ottawa, Kitchener-Waterloo and Windsor perform an additional 14,000 cataract operations each year, representing about 25 per cent of the province’s current wait list for the procedure. Next, more private clinics will be able to offer MRI and CT imaging, as well as colonoscopies and endoscopies,” says the CBC.

Recently, new “As of Right” rules were also announced in the province, to attract more health care workers to Ontario, the first in the country to do so, says a government release. Broadly, the changes will recognize the credentials of health care workers registered in other provinces and territories.

Pharmacists in Ontario also now have newly-expanded authority to prescribe medicines for some minor ailments and limited chronic-care treatment, that previously needed a doctor’s script.

Locally, South Niagara is also getting a new hospital located in Niagara Falls. By 2028, Niagara Health will fully transition to a regional model with two acute care sites, including the opening of the new South Niagara Site hospital, and one ambulatory care site.

Meanwhile, for those seeking a family doctor in Niagara, here is a link provided by Niagara Region: (there aren’t many options)


We would like to know what you think. What is the situation faced by you, your family, and your employees. Is there anything new to be done, to help alleviate the health-care crunch in Niagara?

Please e-mail us your thoughts, which we’ll compile in an upcoming Let’s Talk summary accessible to members— you can remain anonymous if you’d like.

Until then, we wish you health, happiness and prosperity in 2023 and the years ahead!

Contact here


Some health-care primary references:

 Budget details:


New “As of Right” rules in Ontario for health care workers:


An opinion from The Star; and the family-physicians shortage:




Greater Fort Erie Chamber of Commerce

Fort Erie ON

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Niagara Falls Chamber of Commerce

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Port Colborne-Wainfleet Chamber of Commerce

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