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The Ontario Medical Association is blasting the province for its plans to end a program that provides health care services for people without health insurance and is calling on the government to extend it until a new solution can be worked out.

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Dr. Board Chair Cathy Faulds says the government notified the association on Friday that the Physician and Hospital Services for Uninsured Persons program will end on March 31.

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Faulds says the government decision will hurt the province’s marginalized residents, who already face extra social barriers and would have to rely on the good will of individual doctors to receive health care if the program winds down as planned.

She says the OMA wants the government to extend the program temporarily and develop a long-term solution that addresses the medical needs of uninsured residents.

The Ministry of Health confirmed the pending end of the program, noting it was introduced as a measure to support residents during the COVID-19 pandemic and will be ending so the province can focus resources elsewhere.

Ontario established the program in 2020 near the start of the pandemic to pay hospitals and physicians for medical services provided to patients who don’t have provincial health coverage, such as newcomers to the province and many temporary foreign workers and international students.