Primary health care needs expressed during consultation

MORRISBURG – Primary health care which is the most used form of health care access is in crisis.

Primary health care is usually from a nurse practitioner, general practitioner or family physician.

Groups of like-minded health care professionals are uniting to share that message and urge the government to address the problem with appropriate funding.

January 25 a local partnership of inter-professional primary care organizations including Seaway Valley Community Health Centre, Centre de santé communitaire de L’Estrie, Glengarry Nurse Practioner Led Clinic and Rideau St. Lawrence Family Health Team (which includes local community representation) participated in the Pre-Budget Consultation session hosted by local MPP Nolan Quinn at the Cornwall Golf and Country Club.

Erin Killoran, executive director of the Seaway Valley Community Health Centre and Dr. Marilyn Crabtree, a family doctor from Morrisburg, were part of preparing the group’s pre-budget recommendation co-presented by Killoran and Penelope Smith, who is the Executive Director for the Glengarry Nurse Practitioner Led Clinic.

Killoran and Crabtree spoke to The Leader Monday about the group’s recommendations.

“We believe in investing in and adequately funding Comprehensive Primary Health Care as the foundation of an integrated health system.”

Data (2019/20) shows that the average number of health services accessed each day in Ontario through general practitioner visits was 161,000, 75,000 specialist visits, 59,000 x-rays, 17,000 emergency department visits, 7,000 CT/MRI scans, 3,000 inpatient visits and 130 hip and knee replacements.

“We need sustainable and adequate funding in order to maintain our capacity to deliver primary health care, mental health services, health promotion and community programs and services to keep healthy people well in their communities and out of hospital,” explained Killorean.

Crabtree added that when people get in to see their GP’s – the GP can often address less complicated issues earlier.

This removes some of the burden from hospitals where healthcare is more costly.

The Pre-Budget Recommendation report asks that the government invest in health human resources for inter-professional Primary Health Care Teams.

“Ontario needs to invest approximately $165 million or a 12.3 per cent increase over five years to reach the 2023 recommended salaries for Alliance members, of which all our organizations are members, to ensure a well-resourced, fully staffed primary health care system that can support people and communities and ensure the whole health system is not overwhelmed,” said the report.

Without equity amongst the various health care professions, those positions with lower salaries will prolong the struggle to attract health human resources.

Staff in community-based, team-based health care organizations haven’t received salary increases in a number of years and are currently being paid at the same rate as 2017.

To put it in perspective, Crabtree said that for an average visit a GP is paid about $37.

And these organizations haven’t had a base funding increase in 15 years.

According to Crabtree that base funding means doctors receive about $100 per patient and those funds go to staffing, housing and operating the community family health team clinics.

The member network is calling on the Government to invest $33.7 million or five per cent base budget funding increase to community-governed comprehensive primary care organizations in order to maintain their capacity.

Killoran said that the committee hearing the Pre-Budget consultation presentations were receptive to this presentation.

“They had many great questions and seemed in support of our requests and some even had personal experience to support the need we presented,” she added.

Pre-budget consultations take place annually. The consultation period ended January 31. The Ontario budget is usually presented in late March.

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