When the InfoHealth program was developed in Niagara-on-the-Lake 12 years ago, the first session offered was a discussion about the local family health team, at that time relatively new.
Dr. Bill Brown, founder of the series, spoke then of the pros and cons, and the reason behind the provincial initiative to establish such teams, which have changed family health care delivery in Ontario.
He plans to revisit the topic at the June meeting, once again looking at the local model, now combined with a much larger St. Catharines physicians’ group which has become the Niagara North Family Health Team.
The Province plans to restructure health care agencies and how they are funded, and is including family physicians and clinics, said Brown. The changes coming down the pipe are expected to have implications for some of the services now delivered locally by family health teams.
“How will that play out and what will it look like?” he asks.
“The public may be interested in knowing who will be greeting them when they come through the door.”
He is also worried there is little oversight — nobody is assessing whether family health teams are meeting the mandate set out for them when they were first organized by the Province, he said. Nor is anybody looking at doctors to see if they have kept up their skills or are looking at best practices.
As a pilot, Brown said to continue to fly legally, he is tested a minimum of once every two years. He considers it a learning opportunity, and a chance to have any bad habits that might have developed corrected.
“This is something that should apply to all professionals,” he said, “including physicians. There should be some assessment of skills at regular intervals.”
He thinks it’s time to revisit the mandate of family health teams, to make sure they are still on the right track and delivering “quality health care.”
The next two InfoHealth sessions, in June and September, will have Brown and Dr. Jorin Lukings of the Niagara North Health team look at family medicine in Niagara, and how health teams have changed over the last 10 years. “We’ll talk about where they might be headed and what their stress points are, what’s working and what isn’t. And what the solutions are going forward for quality health care delivery. It’s not meant to be confrontational, but really to educate the public about how these systems are working.”
He’s hoping one of the results of the sessions might be local support for family health teams in the face of government changes.
Doctors, he said, “feel a little under fire from the Ford government. There is the sense they might not have a full partnership across the province. Family health teams created a dramatic change in health care about 15 years ago, and it might be happening again.”
It’s time for InfoHealth to look at the current situation, he said, especially in Niagara, where one-third of local graduating medical students are choosing family medicine. The next session is Wednesday, June 12 at 2 p.m.
InfoHealth sessions are held at the NOTL Public Library, and are recorded and broadcast on Cogeco Wednesdays and Sundays at 7 p.m. for four weeks following each session, and are available after that on demand.