Family Health Team given green light

The Fort Frances Clinic got the “go ahead” to develop a Family Health Team model here last Thursday after the province announced its third and final wave of successful applicants permitted to do so.
“We, in Fort Frances, are extremely pleased with this announcement,” said clinic president Dr. Robert Algie, who also sits on the Fort Frances Community Clinic Inc. board.
“The Family Health Team development offers the best solution to our recruitment problems and the current lack of family physicians,” he added.
“The people of Fort Frances and the surrounding communities deserve access to prompt, efficient, and effective health care.
“The ability, in a Family Health Team, to use NPs [nurse practitioners] and other local health disciplines will certainly expand the scope of primary care,” Dr. Algie noted.
“The multi-disciplinary environment of the Family Health Team is what the majority of our recent family physician graduates are looking for in order to provide the best care for our patients.
“We will continue to work hard with the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care, the Group Health Association, and our Fort Frances planning committee to bring this concept to reality,” Dr. Algie pledged.
Dr. Algie said the clinic board here has to submit an approved business plan to the ministry by October, after which the province hopefully will grant official Family Health Team status—with the accompanying funding.
“Sometimes if they feel we’re doing really well, they’ll offer some early programs before the full program gets going,” said Dr. Algie.
“If they see we’re progressing and they’re comfortable with where we’re at, they may fund a nurse practitioner or some other sort of program prior to getting up in full operation.”
“It’s good news. Now, the work begins,” said Coun. Todd Hamilton, who also sits on the inaugural Fort Frances Community Clinic Inc. board, along with Mayor Dan Onichuk, Riverside CEO Wayne Woods, community rep John McTaggart, and Dr. Algie.
Town CAO Mark McCaig and Fort Frances Clinic administrator Maureen Gartshore are acting in advisory roles, with the GHA—based out of Sault Ste. Marie, Ont.— providing overall guidance.
“We’ve got our board set up. We’re ready, and like I said before, we’re in a really good position for a Family Health Team,” said Coun. Hamilton. “We’ve got our physicians centralized, they’re not all over the place.
“It’s a real positive step forward,” he stressed.
“We’re glad we got in. We’re going to be keeping pace with the rest of the province, which we really need to do at this point,” he added.
Coun. Hamilton said being designated a Family Health Team means the clinic here will have opportunities to access funding for nurse practitioners, allied health-care providers, administration of the program, and the continuation of other programs.
“That funding doesn’t come from our team of physicians, it comes from the Ministry of Health,” he noted. “They give you the money to deliver the programs.
“That’s the key to all of this this—they will support programs financially if we’re structured as a Family Health Team. That’s why we’re doing this,” Coun. Hamilton said.
This is important in several ways. For instance, by having nurse practitioners at the clinic, family physicians will be relieved of some of their duties so they can better attend to patients with urgent needs.
“All our physicians here in our community will benefit from the announcement. It’s great news,” said Coun. Hamilton.
Other FHTs announced for the region last week included Kenora, Fort William First Nation, and Greenstone.
Last Thursday’s announcement by the province brings the total number of Family Health Teams to 150—the province’s target number.
The first Family Health Teams were announced last April, with a second wave added back in December.
Once all teams are up and running, they are expected to improve access to health services for more than 2.5 million Ontarians.
“These 150 teams will work to keep people healthy, as well as treat them when they’re sick,” Premier Dalton McGuinty said in a press release. “That means healthier Ontarians, a stronger health care system, and a better quality of life.”
“Family Health Teams are the next evolution in primary health care services and are changing the way health care is being delivered right across the province,” noted Health and Long-Term Care minister George Smitherman.
“They mean a stronger health care system now and for generations to come,” he stressed.
“There has been tremendous interest in Family Health Teams right from when this new and exciting concept was first introduced,” echoed Dr. Jim MacLean, executive lead for Primary Health Care with the ministry’s Health Results Team.
“The teams have grown rapidly, reaching hundreds of thousands of patients who now are able to access the health services they need and deserve,” he added.
“My team and I are delighted with the progress of Family Health Teams over the last several months,” said Dr. Garnet Maley, lead physician with Prime Care Family Health Team.
“Our patients have really benefited from increased access, better services, and better outcomes, and we’re certain the new Family Health Teams announced today will share in our success.”
Family Health Teams are part of the government’s plan for innovation in public health care to serve people better.
This plan includes building a health care system that delivers on three priorities—keeping Ontarians healthy, reducing wait times, and providing better access to doctors and nurses.
“By reaching our goal of creating 150 Family Health Teams, we’re delivering on our commitment to improve health care for working families across Ontario,” said Premier McGuinty.
“Not only will these teams meet local health care needs, but they will promote a healthier Ontario for years to come,” he added.