Work­ing out kinks in ap­point­ment book­ings

Prepar­ing for pub­lic con­sul­ta­tion with Con­cep­tion Bay North re­gion

The Compass - - Front Page - BY AN­DREW ROBIN­SON ed­i­tor@cb­n­com­pass.ca

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.

AN­DREW ROBIN­SON/THE COM­PASS

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.

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