Ontario funding more primary care teams

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One of the more persistent complaints you’ll hear across this province, and certainly in this municipality, is that many people find it impossible to find a family doctor. Long waiting lists leave individuals and families scrambling to find health care outside of hospital emergency rooms or drop-in clinics. Many municipalities have resorted to offering large financial incentives to doctors to settle in their communities, and lengthy waiting times in hospitals add to the worry and potentially negative health outcomes of too many.

The Ontario government has announced that it is investing $110 million to connect up to 328,000 people to primary care teams, an important, though small step in finding such care for the 1.3 million people in Ontario still without that advantage. According to the Government’s announcement, it “is making a record investment of $90 million to add over 400 new primary care providers as part of 78 new and expanded interprofessional primary care teams. In addition to other historic investments to expand medical school spots and efforts to break down barriers so highly‑skilled internationally‑trained doctors can care for people in Ontario, Ministry of Health modelling shows that these initiatives will help connect up to 98 per cent of people in Ontario to primary care in the next several years”.

The kind of teams referred to in the statement, interprofessional primary care teams, connect people to a range of health professionals that work together under one roof, including doctors, nurse practitioners, registered and practical nurses, physiotherapists, social workers and dietitians, among others. It is understood among medical professionals that access to such primary care means faster diagnosis and treatment, which has a major impact on long term health and helps to ease the pressure on hospital emergency rooms.

The importance of family doctors was underlined by Dr. Andrew Park, Ontario Medical Association [OMA] President: “Family doctors are the foundation of our health‑care system. Every Ontarian, no matter where they live, should have access to a doctor and a well‑co‑ordinated health‑care team supporting them when and where they need it. This is an important step towards that goal.”

The extra funding was welcomed by both the OMA, the Registered Nurses’ Association of Ontario, the Ontario Hospital Association, the Ontario College of Family Physicians, and other medical bodies in Ontario.

A statement from local MPP Steve Clark noted that in Leeds‑Grenville‑Thousand Islands and Rideau Lakes, “funding will allow the Upper Canada Family Health Team to connect up to 6,600 people to primary care. Programs and services include comprehensive primary care, mental health services, chronic disease management and prevention, and care coordination”. The Upper Canada Family Health Team and Brockville General Hospital will be at the centre of the new scheme there. There was no mention of funding for North Grenville as yet.

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