Ontario's Doctors advocate plan for more equitable approach to primary care

Only one third of Ontarians have direct access to team-based care

TORONTO, July 23, 2015 /CNW/ - Ontario's doctors know the benefits of working in partnership with allied health professionals like dieticians and nurses to provide team-based care to patients and they believe everyone who needs access to that kind of care should have it.

Currently, just one third of Ontarians have direct access to publicly-funded allied health professionals like registered dieticians, social workers, nurse practitioners, and mental health workers. A recent Ontario Medical Association report proposes a way to change that through an integrated approach to primary care where those patients not presently enrolled in, but who would most benefit from, a multi-disciplinary team approach would be able to access it.  

"Ontario's doctors believe everyone deserves equitable access to the care they need when they need it," said Dr. Mike Toth, President, Ontario Medical Association. "We believe our proposal is an innovative solution for health care that makes use of current resources while improving patient care."

That kind of seamless and collaborative care offered by a multi-disciplinary team is currently only available to those Ontarians enrolled in a Family Health Team (FHT) or Community Health Centre (CHC). Patients enrolled in these models of care have access not only to a family doctor, but also allied health professionals such as nurses, social workers, registered dieticians, and mental health workers who work together to provide comprehensive care to their patients.

"Currently, family doctors across the province provide comprehensive, collaborative care to their patients. The difference with the integrated health network approach is the care is seamless – patients don't need to be added to waiting lists for specialized programs and providers are not separated by silos so communication is more effective and efficient," said Dr. Toth.

By allowing patients not enrolled in FHTs or CHCs to access their multi-disciplinary teams it will improve equity for patients when it comes to primary care and build on the solid foundation created by Ontario's investment in FHTs and CHCs.

"This will require a partnership and commitment on behalf of the government and all providers," said Dr. Toth. "But I know Ontario's doctors are willing to work collaboratively and be leaders as we work to provide equitable access to those patients most in need of team-based care."

Some of the specialized programs available in these models of practice include healthy living programs such as smoking cessation; senior's programs; diabetes education programs; lung health programs; and mental health programs.

Research has shown a focus on primary care not only improves patient outcomes, but it reduces upstream costs like hospital, drug and diagnostic services. Given the fiscal restraints facing the health care system in Ontario, Ontario's doctors believe this approach would not only improve patient care but also better utilize current system resources.

The Ontario Medical Association (OMA) represents over 34,000 physicians and medical students across the province. Ontario's doctors work closely with patients to encourage healthy living practices and illness prevention. In addition to delivering front-line services to patients, Ontario's doctors play a significant role in helping shape health care policy, as well as implementing initiatives that strengthen and enhance Ontario's health care system.

SOURCE Ontario Medical Association

For further information: Danielle Milley, Senior Advisor Media Relations, 416-599-2580 or 1-800-268-7215 ext. 3008 or danielle.milley@oma.org; OMA Media Relations, 416-340-2862 or toll-free at 1-800-268-7215 ext. 2862, media@oma.org


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