PRIMARY CARE REFORM MAY ADD TO ACCESS PROBLEMS

By Andrew Smith - Listowel Banner November 4, 2015

NORTH PERTH - A provincial health report on primary care reform caused some discussion at a recent North Perth Family Health Team meeting, with concerns that increased access may come with increased headaches.

The NPFHT met on October 28 and briefly discussed The Baker-Price Report, a report on primary care reform commissioned by the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care. Dr. Rob Annis said the report has been leaked online for the past couple of years, and it focuses on moving to geographical hubs for providing primary care, rather than the current system of patient rosters.

"There's a million logistical problems with implementing that," Annis said. "The government has been hesitant to release it officially and get input on it, they are almost distancing themselves from it."

According to Annis, The Baker-Price Report attempts to create equal sharing of health care resources across the province, as only 25 percent of residents have access to team-based primary care, such as a Family Health Team.

"The people who maybe need that kind of care the most aren't getting it," he said. "it's not fair, and I think the stuff in here wants to make it fair, give people equal access."

The problem, Annis added, is that North Perth's Family Health Team is already stretched to serve the existing patient roster, and opening up to a wider population isn't going to help that.

"if only 25 percent of the population is getting team-based care, you need more and there's not enough capacity." Annis said. "As much as they'd like to spread that resource to the whole province, it's just not going to without more of them."

Listowel-Wingham Hospitals Alliance CEO Karl Ellis agreed on the issue of doctor supply not meeting the demand.

"I think our primary care practitioners are probably tapped out in terms of access, there's more demand than supply," Ellis said. "expanding the demand doesn't help with the supply side of the equation."

Ellis said moving to a geographical hub approach to primary care would likely involve increased sharing of resources between Listowel and Wingham hospitals as well.

"if Family Health Team services are going to be available more broadly to a community, not just to roster patients, how do we manage what we have between tow Family Health Teams to serve that need?" Ellis asked.

Ellis said staff would also need to be mindful of the slight cultural differences between the two communities, as he said Wingham appeared to be more resistant to change while Listowel is slightly more progressive. "Both communities are very passionate about their health care services and very supportive," Ellis said. "We have to be mindful it has to be on an equal basis, it's not one trying to take over the other."

Ellis said an announcement on primary care reform may come from the MInistry of Health and Long-Term Care yet this fall.