Louise's December Blog - Patients First

December 22, 2015

Dear Fellow Northerners,

Do you have a family doctor or a nurse practitioner? How hard is it to get an appointment?

Numbers recently released by Health Quality Ontario paint a picture of the opportunities to strengthen how Northerners receive primary care. In the North East,

  • Only one in three patients is able to see their primary care provider on the same day or the next day when they are sick.
  • We have the lowest rate of follow−up by primary care providers who see their patients within seven days of being discharged from hospital.

As a LHIN, we are working with five primary care physician leads and one nurse-practitioner (NP) to help better coordinate care for Northerners -- Dr. Paul Preston in North Bay, Dr. Reena Dhatt in Sudbury, Dr. Yves Raymond in Timmins, Dr. David Fera and Dr. Jodie Stewart in Sault Ste. Marie, and NP Barbara Kiely in Kirkland Lake. These primary care providers are talking to other providers about ways to put patients-first and better connect family doctors and nurse-practitioners to other parts of the system so that patients can benefit from more coordinated and timely access to the care they need.

So what can we change?

Well, Minister of Health and Long Term Care Dr. Eric Hoskins has talked about ways of reforming primary care … He’s talked about the need to create coordinated care plans for our most complex patients, ensure patients living with chronic disease get the help they need to live at home, and ensure that the rest of us can still access care when needed and have access to activities to help keep us healthy.

At an annual conference last month (HealthAchieve), Minister Hoskins described what kind of change is needed: “Change that is bold, change that doesn't just tinker around the edges, but change that improves the structure of our system in a profound way, always focused on better access for our patients and better care when they need it the most.”

He also talked about the role of the LHINs in this future transformed system.

“LHINs know the needs of their population and they know the partners and the service providers who care for that population.  They have become much more sophisticated and they must continue to evolve.  LHINs have the capacity to play a role that better acknowledges the true importance of local decision-making and local management.  And that ladies and gentlemen includes primary care.”

When I look to the future and imagine a well-balanced and integrated health care system for Northerners, I see one that begins with strong primary care that can be accessed as close to home as possible and is distributed equitably across the region.  

Ideally, primary care providers will be strongly linked to home and community care where they can assist people with the activities of daily living or provide support for patients requiring housing or a mental health intervention.

What do you think? How can we improve one of the most important parts of our health care system? Do you have suggestions or ideas that could help inform decisions on the design of primary health care in the North East LHIN? I encourage you to read recent reports that are meant to help  inform our conversation including the Bringing Care Home report by Dr. Gail Donner and the Expert Group on Home and Community Care and the  Patient Care Groups: A new model of population based primary health care for Ontario by David Price.  

Finally, the Minister recently released a discussion paper called “Patients First:  Proposal to Strengthen Patient-Centred Health Care in Ontario” which I invite all Northerners to read and comment on.

If you have any thoughts at this time, please send them to Engagingwithyou@lhins.on.ca