Doctor recruitment still priority for health team.

by Andrew Smith - Banner Staff

The North Perth Family Health Team celebrated its 10th anniversary recently, looking back on its successes and ahead to its challenges, which includes recruiting to solve Listowel's continued doctor shortage.

NPFHT executive director Mary Atkinson spoke at the meeting, saying that there is a lot to be proud of over the past 10 years. Atkinson said a lot of that success is owed to the staff team who focused on finding a way to work with physicians that best supported patients when the new Family Health Team model was announced.

"When the ministry announced the Family Health Team model, there was no structure behind it," she said. "It was really building that whole level of infrastructure that wasn't there."

10 years later, Atkinson said the NPFHT has achieved a local health system that is much more coordinated, with stronger partnerships between them and the Listowel Memorial Hospital.

"We're building programs together, and have even started to do our quality improvement plans so we have common indicators," Atkinson said. All of that really helps support the patients along the continuum of their care journey."

One of the largest accomplishments of the NPFHT according to Atkinson is North Perth's selection as a lead agency for the new Huron Perth Health Link program., a provincial initiative to improve patient quality.

"We're really creating a nice system to ensure that the most vulnerable patients are looked after," Atkinson said. "We've done a lot of the quality improvement front, I think we're one of the first Family Health Teams to have a quality improvement committee in advance of the Excellent Care for All Act."

Atkinson said that North Perth has actually proven to be a provincial leader on Family Health Team initiatives, as provincial consultations have recommended that other communities look at North Perth to see what has been accomplished by the team here.

"Usually in a small rural community, you're much more isolated, so we've been very proactive on building quality and leadership," she said. "We've always been innovative and proactive, and we believe the reason is our passion for our patients."

Looking ahead to challenges, Atkinson said there is some uncertainty around the introduction of the Patients First Act, passed in June, which will involve the merger of the Community Care Access Centres and the Local Health Integration Networks across the province. Atkinson added that the impact will mostly be seen at the administrative level, with little change for patients.

"at the ground level, it's still business as usual for us and our patients come first," Atkinson said. "This is going to be a real challenge for all of us, but it's a big opportunity to build a system that's sustainable."

The Family Health Team also continues to be challenged by a doctor shortage, despite being able to recruit two new physicians last year, Dr. Derek Gateman and Dr. Lisa Trojnar.

"Dr. Gateman has been building his practice, he's been well accepted into the practice, and Dr. Trojnar's work in the ER and the surgical program has helped to solidify that resource," Atkinson said.

Despite bringing in the new doctors, Atkinson said that Listowel continues to be three doctors short, with other doctors nearing retirement.

"There's always potential recruits that we're speaking to on an ongoing basis," She said. "We know we have some pending retirements and people are talking about slowing down, so the recruitment efforts will continue."

Residents can help celebrate the 10th anniversary of the North Perth Family Health Team with a free barbecue on August 31st, from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Fisher Family Primary Care Centre.