Arnprior & District FHT's contribution to VTAC project might be short-term fix for family doctor shortage

May 24, 2023

CBC news published an article and video on May 24, 2023

By Omar Dabaghi-Pacheco 

When it comes to Ontario's family doctor shortage, the paramedic chief in Renfrew County thinks he's found a cure with a hybrid model of care.

The model puts a family doctor just one phone call, and usually a few hours wait, away.

"This is actually a new door into the health-care system that is connected to all other parts," said Michael Nolan, the architect of the eastern Ontario county's latest foray into innovative health-care delivery.

It's called the Renfrew County Virtual Triage Assessment Centre (VTAC), which started as a quick way for community paramedics to start testing some of the county's roughly 100,000 residents during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Nearly three years and 80,000 visits later, the experiment recently received $3.2 million from the Ontario government with assurances money will continue for the long term, Nolan said.

VTAC is team-based care where anyone in the area who needs a doctor can call a 1-800 number to reach a medical receptionist, trained to help them figure out which health-care provider they can see in the shortest amount of time.

The receptionist will set up an appointment with one of dozens of VTAC doctors working remotely across Ontario. Next, a paramedic or nurse will either make a house call or meet them at a nearby clinic to perform the physical assessment for the virtual doctor.

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See the previous 2021 article about VTAC here