Fam­ily-doc­tor pi­lot project launched

Packet & Times (Orillia) - - FRONT PAGE - DAVE DAW­SON

There are many peo­ple in Oril­lia and area who do not have a lo­cal fam­ily doc­tor. So, when they re­quire med­i­cal care, th­ese “un­at­tached pa­tients” typ­i­cally land in the emer­gency depart­ment of Oril­lia Sol­diers’ Memo­rial Hospi­tal (OSMH).

To im­prove ac­cess to pri­mary care for those in­di­vid­u­als and to, ul­ti­mately, help them find a fam­ily doc­tor, the city’s fam­ily health or­ga­ni­za­tions, in con­junc­tion with the Oril­lia and Area Physi­cian Re­cruit­ment and Re­ten­tion Com­mit­tee (OAPRRC), have started a pi­lot project aimed at ad­dress­ing those is­sues.

The three-month project will pro­vide episodic non-ur­gent care to “un­at­tached” pa­tients at the city’s two af­ter-hours clin­ics. For the past few years, only pa­tients with lo­cal fam­ily doc­tors were able to ac­cess the clin­ics.

“For var­i­ous rea­sons, we have def­i­nitely no­ticed an in­crease in the num­ber of peo­ple who are look­ing to ac­cess pri­mary care in Oril­lia,” said Dr. Ryan Mitchell, the lead physi­cian at the Couch­ich­ing Fam­ily Health Team. “Right now, the only place an un­at­tached pa­tient can go for ur­gent or semi-ur­gent care is OSMH, which, we are con­vinced, is not an ideal sit­u­a­tion. We wanted to try to of­fer a ser­vice for pa­tients in the com­mu­nity who are long-term mem­bers of the com­mu­nity — peo­ple who have moved here, live here and want to build a life here — but haven’t yet been able to get a fam­ily doc­tor.”

From now un­til Dec. 9, any­one with a per­ma­nent ad­dress in the postal code ar­eas of L3V, L0L or L0K will be able to ac­cess the lo­cal af­ter-hours clin­ics. For now, there is a cap of five “un­at­tached” pa­tients per night at each of the clin­ics.

When those pa­tients visit the clin­ics, they will be en­cour­aged to reg­is­ter with Health Care Con­nect, the govern­ment’s con­duit to link­ing a per­son with a fam­ily doc­tor. The OAPRRC has pur­chased tablets that will be avail­able at both clin­ics, where staff will help pa­tients nav­i­gate the Health Care Con­nect process.

“One of our man­dates is to en­sure ev­ery Oril­lian has ac­cess to pri­mary care,” said OAPRRC chair Dr. Matt Miller. “When we heard about this idea, we en­cour­aged the pi­lot project and wanted to do all we could to help be­cause it’s im­por­tant to en­sure ev­ery­one has ac­cess to pri­mary-care physi­cians with­out go­ing to emer­gency.”

While the short-term goal is to en­sure peo­ple have ac­cess to pri­mary health care in a timely man­ner, the long-term goal is to en­sure ev­ery cit­i­zen has a lo­cal fam­ily doc­tor.

“The end goal is to get pa­tients con­nected with a fam­ily doc­tor. That’s the ideal out­come,” said Dr. Peter Daniel, the lead physi­cian with the Oril­lia Fam­ily Health Or­ga­ni­za­tion. “We’re hop­ing to make the Health Care Con­nect process more user-friendly at the clinic. I know, in the past, a lot of peo­ple have been afraid to de-reg­is­ter from their out-of-town doc­tor they had be­fore mov­ing here. You can con­tinue to see that doc­tor un­til you are at­tached to a lo­cal one. De-reg­is­ter­ing doesn’t mean that doc­tor can’t see you ever again; you don’t have to cut your ties com­pletely. How­ever, it’s bet­ter to have a fam­ily doc­tor where you live and that’s what we’re try­ing to fa­cil­i­tate.”

One of the rea­sons so many peo­ple in the area don’t have a fam­ily doc­tor is the prov­ince changed some of its rules a few years ago and de­ter­mined this area was no longer one of “high need.” That meant, in essence, a new fam­ily doc­tor could only come to town if an ex­ist­ing doc­tor re­tired. How­ever, Oril­lia has re­cently been des­ig­nated as un­der­ser­viced, which paves the way for re­cruit­ment.

As a re­sult, one new fam­ily doc­tor has al­ready been re­cruited and ef­forts con­tinue to bring more to the area, said Miller.

“Since 2010, 19 fam­ily physi­cians have been re­cruited, but that twoyear pause put us be­hind meet­ing the needs of a grow­ing com­mu­nity,” he said.

Mitchell said the pi­lot project could be a good tool to aid re­cruit­ment.

“Dur­ing the pi­lot project, we’ll be track­ing the num­ber of un­at­tached pa­tients we see, the num­ber who sign up with Health Care Con­nect and, hope­fully, how many get matched with a fam­ily doc­tor. We can use that data to help re­cruit new fam­ily physi­cians to Oril­lia.”

Mitchell sees the need for more fam­ily doc­tors ev­ery day.

“We would all love to see any­body who is sick or just have ques­tions be able to get in to see their fam­ily doc­tor within 48 hours, but right now, that’s just not hap­pen­ing,” he said. “We still have a short­age of fam­ily physi­cians. Wait times are longer than any­one would like them to be. We’re hop­ing this will help ad­dress that.”

The pi­lot project will run un­til Dec. 9. The Oril­lia Fam­ily Health Or­ga­ni­za­tion’s af­ter-hours clinic is at 210 Memo­rial Ave., Suite 125. Pa­tient regis­tra­tion hours are Mon­day to Thurs­day from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. and Satur­days from 10 a.m. to noon. The Couch­ich­ing Fam­ily Health Or­ga­ni­za­tion’s af­ter-hours clinic is at 119 Memo­rial Ave., Suite 102. Pa­tient regis­tra­tion hours are week­days from 5:30 to 8 p.m. and Satur­days from 10 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. You must have a valid health card. Pa­tient vol­umes will de­ter­mine the abil­ity to be seen by the doc­tor on duty.

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