LONDON, ONT. -- Tens of thousands of Ontarians have been able to access health care virtually over the past seven months, and one doctor hopes the option will remain available to patients.

"What we have found is it almost gives you the same value, it doesn’t replace face-to-face, but I would say it’s 80-90 per cent,” says Dr. Glen Maddison, palliative care physician at St. Joseph’s Hospice in Sarnia.

Maddison says virtual health care has made appointments more accessible for a majority of his patients.

“Some patients are in wheelchairs and some people are on oxygen and that’s a big deal for them to get out and come to the office.”

Virtual care has become a new tool for physicians since the pandemic began. At St Joseph’s Health Care in London, around 4,000 patients are being seen virtually each week.

“The feedback has been incredibly positive from our patients around their experience and access to care and services,” says Glen Kearns from St. Joseph’s Health Care.

However, provincial funding for virtual care is set to end on March 14, 2021 and that worries Maddison, who is speaking out hoping that the province will it a permanent option.

“My worry is that if they cut the funding completely and I call a patient and don’t get paid, that’s going to affect a lot of doctors,” says Maddison.

Thats why the Ontario Medical Association (OMA) says it’s been working with the province on a future model that would include virtual care.

“The OMA is committed to working with the government to continue virtual care in a way that makes sense for patience and physicians alike,” says Dr. Samantha Hill, OMA president. “I think not just physicians but patients have seen the value.”

Meanwhile, Kearns says money and resources have been allocated to create a permanent virtual care model post pandemic at St. Joe's.

“This will be an aspect of our clinical programs that will continue into the future, unquestionably.”