October 19, 2018

Family Physicians – the Bedrock of our Health System

Family medicine is the bedrock of great health systems. And family physicians are the trusted entry point for patients to get the care they need. Without family doctors, the system will not function.

In fact, family physicians have more interactions with patients and families than any other part of the health system. Significantly more. You are the go-to in urban, suburban and rural communities, and most patients proudly refer to you as “my family doctor”. You are the glue that integrates and supports care in practice, hospitals, long-term care and home care.

We are aware that the full scope and breadth of your role in caring for patients and families in the health system is not well understood or valued the way it should be. This erosion over the past years comes at the peril of needed system change.

And despite your commitment to your profession and your patients, we know your administrative burden is crippling, the system remains fragmented, and you are dealing with concerning levels of burnout. To be fair, the government also knows that the province’s health system is no longer functioning as a system. It is overcapacity, unsustainable and at a breaking point.

So, how do we as OCFP help?

While the OCFP has no role in the OMA/government negotiations, the binding arbitration process is intended to afford a fair outcome. 

We can play a role to amplify the voice of over 13,500 family physicians in this province, along with our key family medicine partners. A unified family medicine voice is a stronger voice that cannot be ignored. We know many of our partners value what family physicians do and recognize what other health systems have figured out. Investing in primary care leads to better outcomes for patients at a lower cost. And it can be done in ways that enhance the experience for patients and the wellness of family physicians.

And we create solutions with your input. For example, we know that "hallway medicine" will not be solved once the patients are already in the hall. You have said you need greater supports upstream by strengthening primary care with the pillars that work and matter to you – comprehensive care, continuity, coordination, access to team-based resources and the valuable relationships that you have with your colleagues in nursing, social work, pharmacy and others to support the provision of care.

Our solutions must make sure that no patient or practice is left behind. How do we ensure that patient medical homes (PMH) are leading a strong primary healthcare system within communities and with system partners? How do we break down barriers so that we have patient communities that link the patient medical homes with hospitals, home care, long-term care and public health?

A good system relies on family physicians to support, screen, diagnose and treat patients.  An excellent system relies on and values the leadership of family physicians to provide meaningful solutions to system problems like the capacity issues we are facing today.

We are proud of what you do every day to keep Ontarians healthy. Our goal – which we will achieve together with you – is to ensure that the government and broader community of health stakeholders value the integral role of family physicians in achieving an excellent system. Our role is to support you as family physician members, to ensure that we amplify your voices with your thoughtful ideas, solutions and concerns for an efficient health system that helps you continue to provide continuity of care over the lifetime of your patients.

Have ideas? Send them to us at ocfp@ocfp.on.ca.