Registration surges for access to family doctors
More than 40,000 people across CIUSSS West-Central Montreal have signed up with family physicians in the first 1½ years since the healthcare network came into existence, says Marie Ouellon, Director of the Frontline Integrated Services Program. “Ultimately, I don’t want anybody in our area to be without access to these services,” she adds.
Ms. Ouellon explains that before the healthcare system was restructured in 2015, many people lacked access to a family doctor and they had no one to turn to when problems arose. Although assistance was available in clinics like the JGH’s Herzl CRIU Walk-in Centre, individuals often had limited opportunity to receive follow-up care from a family doctor who was familiar with their particular medical situation.
Equally important, Ms. Ouellon says, many people did not see a family doctor on a regular basis for general care. As a result, they were sometimes unaware of the need to take preventive measures that, in certain cases, might have saved them a trip to the Emergency Department or might have helped prevent hospitalization.
Of key importance—in CIUSSS West-Central Montreal and in healthcare networks throughout the province—has been the creation of Family Medicine Groups, Ms. Ouellon says. Registration for a family doctor can be completed on the website of the Ministry of Health and Social Services.
These groups, which draw on the services of about 400 doctors in 11 clinics across the CIUSSS, assign each registered individual to a family doctor, who works within a healthcare team, along withother doctors, nurses, pharmacists, social workers and various healthcare professionals.
This team approach means that even if a person’s regular doctor is unavailable, an individual can still see another doctor, a nurse or, where appropriate, some other type of professional who belongs to the Family Medicine Group.
For the patient, this minimizes delay in getting help, Ms. Ouellon says. The advantage to the healthcare system is that a hospital’s Emergency Department is no longer the automatic destination for someone who needs to be seen, but whose condition is not serious. In addition, she notes, physicians can be assigned to larger numbers of patients, since their personal involvement is not necessarily needed every time one of their patients comes to the clinic.
According the medical literature and several international studies, about 80 per cent of the population—all but the healthiest people in their prime of life—should be registered with a general practitioner. In Quebec, the government has ordered all of the healthcare networks to achieve 85-per-cent registration by December 2018.
The challenge, as always, is ensuring that the objectives can be met within tight budgetary constraints, says Ms. Ouellon. “I don’t believe we’ll need more physicians in order for the new organization to services to work properly. But we’ll have to be very, very creative to provide people with the services they need and deserve.”