The Peterborough Examiner article published on Mar. 2, 2016. Article in full pasted below.
Jason Bain, The Peterborough Examiner
A temporary clinic for patients without a primary health-care provider scheduled to open near the downtown core Monday aims to do far more than simply care for patients, according to Peterborough Family Health Team officials.
The PWD (People Without Doctors) clinic at 239 Charlotte St. will be open for six months to provide care to the nearly 2,200 city and county residents registered with Health Care Connect as being without a family doctor or nurse practitioner.
But the temporary clinic won’t be your typical walk-in clinic, where health care providers general react to patients’ immediate medical needs. Staff will also be proactive, gathering data to reflect the true number of those without a family doctor.
That information will be used to demonstrate to the ministry that the city is underserviced, from a primary care provider perspective, and to lobby for more doctors for the region, family health team officials stated.
The Ministry of Health deemed the city fully serviced in the spring of 2015 and put a freeze on new doctors joining the health team, unless they are a replacement for a retirement.
That is leaving thousands with limited options when it comes to their health care – something officials want to change.
“While we have great service here, we know it’s not enough,” health team executive director Lori Richey said.
The volume of unattached patients, anticipated population growth and unnecessary use of the PRHC emergency department for non-urgent care are other reasons family health team officials felt “compelled” to “improve this unacceptable situation.”
“It is our hope that the People without Doctors Clinic will provide some much needed care to the unattached patients of Peterborough city, while providing accurate information on just how enormous that need is,” family health team medical director Dr. Kaetlen Wilson stated.
The clinic will also be an opportunity for health care providers to get a sense of the needs of those without a primary care provider and to connect patients with other services in the community they may not be utilizing, Richey said. “We’re trying to inform our planning.”
Those without a family doctor or nurse practitioner should register with Health Care Connect, a provincial service, as soon as possible, Richey said, noting how the actual number of those without a primary care provider is much higher.
That figure is key because it is what will be used by the ministry to decide how many doctors the area needs, she said. “The list is what drives funding decisions.”
It’s also important for those who have been on the list for a long time to ensure their health status is up-to-date and accurate, Richey added.
The process to open the clinic happened quickly, the executive director said, noting how it is in line with expected Ontario health care reform.
In aligning with new provincial priorities, the family health team will have a handle on the needs of local patients when the changes are implemented, she said.
For example, walk-in clinics are not ideal care, Richey said, explaining how having a primary care providers who provide longitudinal care for every patient is the “ultimate goal.”
The clinic will be open on weekdays and will close Aug. 22.
The doctors working there are all retired or semi-retired and are assisting because they are passionate about being a part of the solution, Richey said, noting how leveraging all the players in the health care system is necessary.
The temporary clinic, announced Monday, has been a community effort. AON is providing a subsidized rent cost as a community service, Brant Office Supply has loaned office furniture and McWilliams Moving and Storage picked up and delivered medical equipment.
Castle Voice and Data Communications Inc. also provided a discounted rate for the phone system while Your Family Health Team Foundation supported the purchase of clinical equipment.
The temporary clinic is the first phase of a two-pronged effort, with more details on the latter expected to be released soon. The second phase relates to the 109,000 city and county residents who do have a doctor, Richey said.
To reach the clinic, call 705-741-2260 (phone lines open Monday) for an appointment or walk in during office hours.
To register with Health Care Connect, call 1-800-445-1822 or register online at www.ontario.ca/page/find-a-family-doctor-or-nurse-practitioner. Those in need of assistance registering are encouraged to call the clinic.