TORONTO — Ontario doctors should be providing in-person care now instead of virtual visits, say their regulatory college, the Ministry of Health and the province's top doctor.
The College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario, Dr. Kieran Moore, and a senior government bureaucrat wrote a joint letter saying that earlier pressures such as the severity of the COVID-19 pandemic and a lack of personal protective equipment led to prioritizing virtual care, but the situation has now improved.
"We know that many physicians are striking the right balance between virtual and in-person care, however, collectively we are increasingly hearing about physicians’ offices that are not providing in-person care," they wrote.
"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 Ontario Medical Association said the letter "paints a broad and unfair characterization of workforce under enormous stress."
"Virtual care will continue to play a critical role as we reopen safely and create a new normal," the OMA said in a statement. "Both patients and doctors have found virtual care to be beneficial during these last 19 months."
Doctors are responding to changes in the pandemic as quickly as they can, the OMA said, noting that up until a few weeks ago the province's science table was predicting the fourth wave would continue.
Doctors still have to work under strict hygiene and infection control protocols while trying to deal with higher demands due to a backlog from the pandemic and are suffering from burnout, the OMA said.
Ontario reported 417 new cases of COVID-19 on Thursday, and three more deaths. Health Minister Christine Elliott said 271 of those cases are in people who aren't fully vaccinated or whose vaccination status is unknown.
More than 87 per cent of eligible Ontarians have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine and more than 82 per cent have received both doses.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 14, 2021.
Allison Jones, The Canadian Press