McMaster University

McMaster University

Faculty of
Health Sciences

Price heads report suggesting organization of Ontario primary care by area

Published: October 16, 2015
David Price
Dr. David Price, chair, Department of Family Medicine

Ontarians should have equitable access to primary care, and forming patient groups based on where they live may be the way to go, says a report commissioned by the Ontario government and co-chaired by Dr. David Price, chair of family medicine for the Michael G. DeGroote School of Medicine at McMaster University.

The report, released this week, says patient care groups based on geography would be created, and they would offer access to interprofessional primary care with hours including weekends and evenings. Patients would retain their ability to choose their health care providers, but this organization of primary care would ensure every resident has a patient care group responsible to oversee their primary health care.

The paper suggesting a redesign of the province's primary care sector, from the primary health care expert advisory panel, was looking at how to ensure all Ontarians have a family physician and access to an interprofessional care team on a seven-day week basis.

"This vision for an integrated primary health care system in Ontario is a novel approach, but worth serious consideration," said Price.

He pointed out that currently only 25 per cent of Ontarians have access to interdisciplinary primary care, and at this time there is no obligation for care to be offered in a timely or convenient manner. And, although 85 to 90 per cent of Ontario residents now have a family doctor, some patients may be "abandoned" if they cannot find a family physician to take them on their roster. "But no one should fall through the cracks."

Price said patient care should be developed at the community level, with local accountability and services shared by the patient care groups managed at the Local Health Integration Network (LHIN) level, thus leveraging existing primary care administration of family health teams, community hospitals and community health centres.

The plan would also ensure that communication, probably electronic, takes place between a patient's primary care providers. That is, if patients, such as commuters, sought care in other areas, their "most responsible" patient care group would receive updates.

"We looked at high functioning primary care systems around the world to create a plan for a made-in-Ontario primary health care system responsible to local needs. It would ensure equitable care and access to interdisciplinary health care teams. This would promote a system of quality improvement."

In responding to the report, the Ontario Minister of Health and Long-Term Care Dr. Eric Hoskins thanked the panels of experts who wrote the report, and said the goal of ensuring all residents have access to interprofessional primary health care is important.

"The report is one piece of advice the government is considering when discussing how to strengthen primary care in Ontario. Along with the recommendations of other reports submitted to the government over the past few years, it will help inform our work as we go forward.

"Our focus continues to be on ensuring Ontarians are connected to a primary care provider and can see their primary care provider in a timely way when they are sick, while ensuring that patients can continue to choose their own provider. We will empower patients, not create additional administration."

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