Health Issues

The Vital Signs Annual Report from the County Foundation Presentation September 23 was a great
illustration of how health issues interact with other community issues.

Sarah Michel, the Youth Inclusion Case Worker at the ROC (Recreation Outreach) Centre noted the
lingering post COVID effects of anxiety and isolation that our young people are experiencing. Only one
in two youth in Canada aged 18 to 34 reported their mental health as “good” in 2021 and our local
surveys were consistent with this.

Anne VanVlack of the Foundation noted that the number of over 65’s in the County represents 33% of
our population and with an median age of 56.8, it is 15.2 years older than the province which makes us
one of the oldest populations in Ontario. As people age their health care needs increase. The OPP presentation highlighted that they have seen a 17% increase in mental health related incidents last year compared to the 7 year average of 2014 to 2021.

Most sadly we’ve seen a 75% increase in opioid-related deaths in 2020 compared to 2019, and problematic substance abuse is higher in Hastings Prince Edward than the province at large.

The lack of affordable housing coupled with inflation is increasing food insecurity in our community. If you have to choose between paying the rent and eating your health is gong to suffer. Now consider that only 83% of people in our community have a Family Doctor – well below the average of 93% for the province. And it was alarming to read that we expect to see 10 doctors retiring between next year and 2026! Lack of attainable housing is the number one deterrent according to the Prince Edward Family Health Team.

So what do we do?

If we are not a healthy community the ripple effects are significant We have to be competitive with other communities in the bursaries we pay to doctors. Young doctors are now graduating (as is the case with many young people) with higher debt loads than ever. One local councillor asked our local health team if we are sufficiently promoting the County as a great place to live. We do have a great place to live but we have to recognize the financial realities these younger physicians confront. We have to consider designated rental accommodation for new doctors.

And if we want young doctors we also have to address the shortage of child care that we have in the County – the waiting list currently has 155 names on it. And we need to improve outcomes in our schools as doctors who are parents will also be concerned for their children’s education. This will also help the mental health of our local young people. We should consider extending similar considerations to nurse practitioners to complement GPs. Or provide education grants to local nurses to encourage them to retrain.

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