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Province moves to separate medical school from Laurentian
Just days after cancelling nearly 70 programs, there has been another shake-up at Laurentian University. The Ontario government announced Thursday it is recommending the Northern Ontario School of Medicine, as well as the Universite de Hearst become stand-alone organizations. “The Ontario government has introduced proposed legislation to establish NOSM and Université de Hearst as independent, stand-alone degree-granting institutions,” the province announced. “If passed, the legislation would formally recognize the integral role these institutions play in providing students with access to medical training and French-language studies in northern Ontario.” Ross Romano, minister of colleges and universities, said the move will benefit the institutions while ensuring they remain accessible to students. “NOSM and Hearst provide specialized and important educational opportunities in northeastern Ontario. They are ready to take the next step in their development and maturity as institutions,” he said. “This new independence will ensure each institution has the autonomy to grow in ways that more effectively support access to quality education for students and communities in the region. Hearst will become Ontario’s second stand-alone French-language university, joining the Université de l’Ontario français. NOSM will become more agile and nimble to the changing needs of students as they help tackle the need for doctors and other health human resources in northern Ontario.” Founded in 2005, NOSM currently operates as a not-for-profit corporation of Lakehead University in Thunder Bay and Laurentian University. In 2020-21, the medical school had nearly 460 full-time students enrolled at its two campuses. Students complete more than 40 per cent of their training in Indigenous, small rural and larger urban communities throughout northern Ontario. This helps increase the likelihood that Indigenous and Francophone doctors continue working in these communities after graduation. Administrators at Lakehead University said Thursday they were displeased with the news emanating from Queens Park. “NOSM is an integral part of Lakehead University and our community. We know the north is stronger when we work together. This partnership, forged by the long-standing collaboration and support of so many local partners, has had a significant and positive impact on our region,” Dr. Moira McPherson, president and vice-chancellor of Lakehead University, said. “We are concerned by today’s news, particularly in light of the absence of any consultation with the university; we are in the process of reviewing this decision and determining its impacts. As we conduct this important work, our priority is protecting the interests of our students and our communities, and ensuring that northwestern Ontario is championed every step of the way.” As affiliated post-secondary institutions, NOSM and Hearst already operate largely independently. Both institutions are unique compared to other affiliates across Ontario as they already receive direct funding from the Ministry of Colleges and Universities. The proposed legislation, if passed, would provide the institutions with independent governance and administration, and would empower them to explore offering more programs in new communities across northern Ontario. It would also provide a pathway for the institutions to grant their own degrees. The government intends to engage the expert guidance of the Post-secondary Education Quality Assessment Board in moving toward this milestone. “This legislative proposal is an important milestone for the Universite de Hearst and the Northern Ontario School of Medicine. Operating as independent institutions with the ability to make choices about future partnerships and growth would allow them to better meet the needs and aspirations of their student population,” Caroline Mulroney, minister of Francophone affairs, commented. In 2020-21, the Unversite de Hearst had about 160 full-time students enrolled at its three campuses in Hearst, Kapuskasing and Timmins. Laurentian University, meanwhile, said it is moving forward by focusing on its strengths. “In addition to continuing with 38 undergraduate French-language programs and five graduate French-language programs, Laurentian has a total (English and French) of 107 undergraduate programs and 33 graduate programs,” the school said on laurentianu.info. “Some key highlights of our continuing French-language programs include nursing, psychology, physical education and health, business administration, biomedical biology, social work and many more. “As a bilingual and tri-cultural institution, these offerings keep us amongst the most comprehensive institutions with respect to our balance of French- and English-language programs. Nearly all of our approximately 2,000 Francophone students will continue to have a full suite of French-language courses to choose from in their programs of choice, and Laurentian will also be positioned to meet future demands.” The university said it plans to file an extension of the initial stay order with the Ontario Superior Court, which will allow it to continue to the next phase in its proceedings under the Companies’ Creditors Arrangement Act. “This includes additional financial support from our CCAA lender in order to continue to operate as Laurentian implements its plans to position the university for long-term sustainability and a basis for recovery for its creditors and stakeholders,” LU noted. firstname.lastname@example.org Twitter: @SudburyStar
Ontario could announce new restrictions today to curb surging COVID-19 rates
THE CANADIAN PRESS TORONTO — Ontario could announce new public health restrictions today to curb surging cases of COVID-19 which are straining hospital capacity. The province’s associate medical officer of health said Thursday that additional recommendations have been made to cabinet. Dr. Barbara Yaffe said the situation in the province is “dire” and worse than any other point in the pandemic. Solicitor General Sylvia Jones said “everything is on the table” when asked about possible new restrictions on Thursday. She would not say what specific measures cabinet was considering, or could be announced today. Ontario’s science advisory co-chair Dr. Adalsteinn Brown is also expected to provide an updated pandemic modelling briefing today. The head of the Ontario Hospital Association said Friday the latest data from Critical Care Services Ontario show 684 COVID-19 patients in adult intensive care units, including 74 new admissions. Meanwhile, another health network in Toronto says it will temporarily stop administering first doses of COVID-19 vaccines at two hospital-based clinics due to supply issues. Unity Health says the clinics at St. Joseph’s and St. Michael’s hospitals will close Sunday for at least a week, though existing appointments will not be cancelled. The decision was made so the network can focus on vaccinating high-risk groups, including health-care workers and residents in hot spot areas, through pop-up clinics, mobile outreach and home visits, Unity Health said on its website. Earlier this week, Scarborough Health Network and University Health Network said they were forced to cancel appointments and close immunization clinics as a result of vaccine shortages. Both have said they will reopen their clinics as soon as they receive more vaccines.