Healthcare experts are calling on the province to address inequities in Ontario’s online OHIP card renewal requirements.

At the moment, Ontario health cards can only be renewed online if the individual has a driver’s licence. While government issued identification that shows proof of residency and personal identity is acceptable for in-person renewal, the requirements are different online.

“This is concerning at any time, and it is particularly concerning during a pandemic,” said Sarah Hobbs, CEO of Alliance for Healthier Communities, in a release issued on Tuesday.

She pointed to people with disabilities as just one group that could be disproportionately impacted by these rules.

“People made more vulnerable by the pandemic, and at higher risk, are also faced with inequitable access to this system,” she said.

Katie Hogue, a nurse practitioner in Ontario, added that there are a wide range of medical reasons that could prevent a person from driving, such as mobility challenges, vision impairment, dementia and epilepsy.

“The system is not considering these people or their needs,” Hogue said.

According to the government website, if you cannot visit a Service Ontario for a medical reason, a physician or nurse practitioner can fill out a medical exemption form. Although, once the form is completed, someone must deliver the documents to a Service Ontario to finish the renewal process.

More widely, the pandemic has highlighted inequities that span across the entire healthcare system, Caroline Lidstone-Jones, CEO of the Indigenous Primary Health Care Council, said.

“This discrimination is one example of an inequitable system but this one has a quick solution,” Lidstone-Jones said. “Allow people with a photo card to renew their health card online, the same way those with a driver’s licence can.”

When Minister Ross Romano was asked to address the subject at Queen’s Park earlier in the week, he said that the government is working towards “modernizing” the process of renewing OHIP cards, making it “digital first not digital only.”

“But I want to be crystal clear that the way in which you would have renewed your health card in the past, you can still do the same renewal processes you always could and we are just making it better,” he added.

Romano acknowledged how important it is to have access to OHIP renewal throughout the province and said he will have more to say about the topic at a future date.