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Province Moves Forward with Improving Access to Family Doctors and Primary Care

News Release – Manitoba
June 27, 2011

Record Increase in Doctors Practising in Manitoba; Construction Begins on New ACCESS St. James Centre; New QuickCare Clinics to Open by Fall: Oswald

The province is moving forward on a number of new initiatives to ensure all Manitobans who want one will have access to a family doctor by 2015, Health Minister Theresa Oswald announced today.“New numbers from the College of Physicians and Surgeons show there are 87 more doctors practising in Manitoba this year, a new record,” said Oswald. “We’re building on this momentum by introducing innovative new ways to bring team-based, quality care that Manitoba families need where they need it most, to ensure Manitobans who want a family doctor can find one.”

The minister marked the beginning of construction of ACCESS St. James at a sod-turning event today. The new centre, located on the Grace General Hospital campus in west Winnipeg, will integrate primary care with community health and social services. It is the seventh provincial one-stop health and social services centre.

The minister also unveiled the locations for the first-in-Manitoba QuickCare clinics and mobile primary-care units today. Five QuickCare clinics will be located in areas in need of improved access to primary care including St. Boniface at 17 St. Mary’s Rd., on McGregor Street at the North End Wellness Centre and Steinbach at the Clearspring Mall. Additional QuickCare clinics will also be located in Selkirk and Winnipeg’s St. Vital community.

QuickCare clinics, with extended evening and weekend hours, will be staffed with nurse practitioners and registered nurses to offer non-urgent primary care for routine health concerns such as ear infections, immunizations and wound care. The first QuickCare clinics are expected to open this fall and will be connected to primary-care services in the local communities. The province will also work with the regional health authorities to help Manitobans know when to use a QuickCare clinic.

“Improved access to physicians and other care providers in the community, working in inter-professional care teams within networks, will greatly enhance health-care experiences and outcomes for individuals,” said Brock Wright, senior vice-president of clinical services and chief medical officer for the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority.

The regions piloting the two new mobile primary-care units were also confirmed by the minister. The first mobile unit will operate in the Parkland and Assiniboine health regions, and will be stationed in Swan River and Russell to visit surrounding communities on a rotating basis. The other unit will serve communities in the northern portion of the Central health region. The units will also visit First Nations and Métis communities in all three regions.

Staffed with registered nurses and nurse practitioners, the mobile units will offer services such as physical exams, screening, chronic disease management and immunizations, and include information technology to connect the team to other care providers and allow the use of Telehealth. A request for information has already been issued for vehicles that will become mobile health centres, complete with an exam area and medical and laboratory equipment. The units are expected to be on the road by early- to mid-2012, as soon as the design and retrofitting process is complete, Oswald said.

“The Assiniboine Regional Health Authority is very excited about hosting one of the first Manitoba mobile primary health-care units,” said Penny Gilson, chief executive officer of the Assiniboine Regional Health Authority. “It will mean improved access to primary care for the region in areas where underserved populations also experience a higher burden of illness and chronic disease.”

The province will also establish primary-care networks to serve as a hub for a person’s health-care needs, and connect them with programs and services that are tailored to meet the needs of the community. These networks support better partnerships between family doctors and the regional health authority, to provide seamless care for patients across the health-care system, the minister said.

“The goal is simple: the power of teamwork between practitioners will provide better care to more patients,” said Oswald. “These teams will know a patients need and support them so they don’t have to go to the hospital unless they are critically ill.”

Primary-care networks or teams will more closely link family doctors and regional health authorities and community services, she said. These can include QuickCare clinics, TeleCare or other self-management services, mobile primary care, midwifery, home care, public health and mental health. Other services that will be provided include individual and group sessions that support healthy living and chronic disease management and clinic hours on evenings and weekends, she added.

Winnipeg has already started to implement primary-care networks. Today, it was confirmed that additional networks will be established in the Burntwood and Southeast health regions, with additional networks following including in the North Eastman Health Region with other regions to follow. Each region will tailor its primary care networks to their communities’ needs, Oswald said.

Additional initiatives include expanding the successful Advanced Access scheduling model to additional primary-care clinics over the next four years to reduce the time Manitobans wait to get an appointment with their family doctor or nurse practitioner. Currently, more than 30 clinics across the province have implemented Advanced Access and many patients are now able to get same-day or next-day appointments when they need them, she said.

Oswald noted that in addition to recruitment and innovation, training is an important third pillar in the province’s strategy.

In addition to a new incentive program starting this fall that will fully cover the costs of medical school for students who agree to work for up to two and a half years in underserved communities, the province will also offer experience to Manitoba students studying medicine abroad who want to return to work in the province. Up to 70 students could be eligible for spots in the program, which will connect medical students with summer positions to give them Manitoba-based work experience and build community connections, increasing the possibility they will be able to pursue a medical residency in Manitoba after graduating, Oswald said.

Manitobans looking for a family physician can call the Family Doctor Connection Line toll-free at 1-866-690-8260. The line connects Manitobans with family physicians in their area who are accepting new patients. For more information on primary-care services in Manitoba, visit: www.gov.mb.ca/health/pcn/index.html.

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BACKGROUND INFORMATION ATTACHED
Improving Access to Family Doctors and Primary Care