Working out kinks in appointment bookings
Preparing for public consultation with Conception Bay North region
Eastern Health officials sat in on the most recent Conception Bay North Joint Council meeting in Bay Roberts.
Eastern Health officials recently told a roomful of municipal leaders they’re working to ensure the temporary family medicine clinics in Carbonear alleviate some of the stress being felt by the local health-care system, while also maintaining a focus on attracting physicians to the Conception Bay North area.
Last month, Eastern Health announced it would offer evening family medicine clinics at the local hospital MondayFriday from 5-9 p.m. In a news release, the regional authority labelled this service as an interim measure to aid the system while it continues work to recruit family physicians to the Conception Bay North region. The clinic started as of March 26. Patients are being asked to book appointments between 1-4 p.m. by calling 945-5059.
The Trinity-Conception area has recently lost a number of family physicians, either due to retirement or decisions to leave and practice medicine elsewhere.
Three Eastern Health official attended the March 29 Conception Bay North Joint Council meeting in Bay Roberts. There, Carbonear Coun. Danielle Doyle mentioned some feedback she’s received from residents regarding the clinics at the hospital. One problem relayed to her was people looking for appointments would call multiple times without getting any answers. They subsequently were told once appointments are filled, calls will either not be answered or they will hear a recording.
“I know one gentleman in particular, he called (the night before the meeting), and he just had quadruple bypasses and something else done, and he had to have a certain test done, but he had no family doctor, so the specialist won’t send him to get the test done. He has to get a family doctor to refer him, but he doesn’t know where his report is even going.”
Ron Johnson, vice-president of information services and rural health for Eastern Health, works out of the hospital in Carbonear. In response to what Doyle brought up, Johnson said the health authority worked quickly to get the evening clinics in place, seeing the need was there for them.
“When the phone was set up, the phone wasn’t set up properly to handle the volume (of calls) that came in,” he said. “So, as I understand it today, they’ve changed that. We’ve put an automatic attendant on it to allow the volumes and also accept (calls) so that people don’t get a ‘mailbox is full’ (response) when they call.
“I think the volume (of calls) is so high, the service we’re providing is not enough to meet the needs, so we’re looking at that … We’re trying to figure out resources to augment that and technically to make it a bit more pleasing for the people calling so they don’t get caught in these loops.”
Doyle also brought up a conversation she had with a local physician involved in the temporary clinic set up at the hospital. She said the appointments were being cut off at 50 for one session, with another 50 out by the door hoping to get in.
“So, if (that physician) has worked in a clinic all day long, goes home and gets supper, comes back … and has to see another 50 patients, how long can (the physician) keep that up before deciding to pack it in?” she wondered. Judy O’Keefe, Eastern Health’s vice-president of clinical services, acknowledged a loss of family physicians could be placing a strain on other services such as the Carbonear hospital’s emergency room. She also noted a person’s work schedule can factor into this as well.
“We would say over half the people presenting to the emergency room should be seen by a family physician in a clinic and could wait. However, there might be lots of reasons for them coming into the emergency room. One of the things we’re concerned about, we see across the region is that sometimes people either don’t have a family doctor for some reason or another, or their family doctor’s office hours aren’t open at that time, or they simply can’t wait for the next day.”
Johnson reiterated Eastern Health is engaging in a strategy for the long-haul that will encourage physicians-in-training to one day establish practices in rural Newfoundland.
Eastern Health officials at the meeting also spoke at length about consultations that will soon get underway to learn where the general public in Conception Bay North wants the health authority to focus its efforts, resulting in a potential checklist of items to address.
Similar exercises have taken place in the Bonavista area and the Burin Peninsula, resulting in the formation of committees involving community members, representatives from groups with a stake in the system and health professionals. Officials at the joint council meeting indicated this process will start in the near future.
Three Eastern Health officials — (from the left) Amy Howard, Judy O’Keefe and Ron Johnson — attended the March 29 Conception Bay North Joint Council meeting to discuss the regional health authority’s plans for engaging local communities on how to best serve the needs of patients.