As hospitals in Ottawa and across Ontario deal with an overflow of patients, the Ontario government is cutting some of the fees it pays to doctors who provide online care.
The move is pushing one virtual pediatric clinic to begin charging a monthly subscription fee to those who use its service.
Two-year-old Henry was born with a connective tissue disorder, and has spent most of his life in and out of the hospital.
“He’s medically complex and this has been the worst cold, flu and RSV season we have experienced,” mother Allana Kayfetz says. “Henry was meant to have a routine catheterization of his heart and it’s now been postponed four times because he keeps getting sick.”
Kayfetz, along with Henry’s father Matthew Kantor, need him to stay healthy and to avoid unnecessary exposure to viruses. The family has turned to an online virtual pediatric clinic – KixCare.
“It’s a platform that allows parents and caregivers like ourselves to access, quite frankly, physicians,” says Kayfetz. “For example, we thought Henry had pink eye recently and we were able to get to that conclusion using a KixCare doctor.”
The service provides 24 hours a day, seven days a week connections to healthcare professionals from around Ontario.
Throughout the pandemic, the province allowed doctors to charge the Ontario Health Insurance Plan the same fee for online visits as in person – about $80 per visit.
However, it was only a temporary. On Dec. 1, virtual care coverage will drop by 75 per cent.
“A temporary service that was put in place during COVID is now being a modified,” Ontario Health Minister Sylvia Jones says. “The Ontario Medical Association and the Ministry of Health are very proud of the fact that we were able to work collaboratively to work out an agreement to make sure that, absolutely, family physicians have the ability to use virtual care when appropriate, but also to ensure that our family physicians are seeing patients in person.”
KixCare plans to charge users a monthly subscription fee of $29 to make up for the cost. This access will be mainly for nurse practitioners.
For Kayfetz, she says that at a time when hospitals are overwhelmed with patients, waiting dozens of hours to see a doctor, this is not the right move.
“Everything about this feels really weird and backwards,” she says. “What we really don’t want is for the ones who are the most fragile. Our kids were medically fragile. Do you have the surgeries moved to not be able to see their primary care providers, and you have a shortage of Tylenol, Advil, and access to medicine.”