The Institute for Clinical Evaluative Sciences (ICES) has released a new report for the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care looking at geographic access to primary care and hospitals in rural and northern communities in Ontario.
The study looks at access to primary care providers, hospitals providing obstetrical delivery care, emergency departments and hospitals with highly specialized services. Travel times to these facilities of 30, 60 and 240 minutes by car (at posted speed limits) were calculated for communities in Ontario with 30,000 residents or less (approximately 22.7 percent of Ontario’s population).
The authors found that primary care and urgent care are highly accessible to residents living in such communities. Of these Ontarians, 99.6 percent had access to a primary care provider (family physician or nurse in an independent remote nursing station) within 30 minutes, and 99.9 percent were within 60 minutes. All Ontario communities with a population of at least 1,000 people had access to primary care within 60 minutes. As well, 97.8 percent of residents of communities of 30,000 or less had access to an emergency department within 30 minutes and 99 percent had access within 60 minutes. All Ontario communities with a population of at least 5,000 people had access to an emergency department within 30 minutes.
The study also showed that hospitals with obstetrical delivery beds were accessible to 93.8 percent of the population in communities of 30,000 people or less within 30 minutes and within 90 minutes for 98.1 percent of the population. However, highly specialized hospitals were less accessible than the other services, although they were still located within a 60 minute drive for 72.2 percent of Ontario’s population living in communities of 30,000 or less.
See “Geographic Access to Primary Care and Hospital Services for Rural and Northern Communities,” ICES, January 2011, available atwww.ices.on.ca.