How we can right-size Canada’s health system as the population grows

From the Toronto Star

Across the country, calls are growing for targeted reforms to primary care, including the expansion of team-based care, which connects patients to interdisciplinary groups made up of pharmacists, social workers, dietitians and other health-care professionals, in addition to nurses and physicians. Evidence suggests such teams improve patient outcomes.

Health leaders also want to see primary care shift to a geographic model to ensure every resident has access to a family doctor within a 30-minute drive of where they live or work. As well, there is a push to allow patients in a team-based environment have a non-physician health professional co-ordinate their care.

Such reforms are necessary given the scale of primary-care needs in the province, says Dr. Rick Glazier, scientific director of the Canadian Institutes of Health Research’s Institute of Health Services and Policy Research.

Even as the need grows for more family doctors to fill the gaps, research shows about 17 per cent of Ontarians are attached to a physician over the age of 65 who is nearing retirement. Glazier says there aren’t enough MDs graduating medical school to replace the aging workforce.

“We don’t have the generation coming behind those people who are retiring,” says Glazier, a family doctor at St. Michael’s Hospital, a part of Unity Health Toronto.

“We will need these interprofessional teams for primary care. We will not be able to do this with doctors alone.”

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