Strengthening Primary Care in the South West LHIN

Ensuring primary health care is strengthened and linked with the broader health care system

The South West LHIN is committed to an integrated health services approach inclusive of primary care. To address this need, Integrated Health Service Collaboratives were envisioned when developing the Health System Design Blueprint – Vision 2022. The Blueprint describes these collaboratives as serving the full population to educate, screen, assess, treat, and assist with navigation and support services.

Improving access to primary care is also a focus for the 2016-19 Integrated Health Services Plan (IHSP). To help inform our priorities the LHIN hosted a series of engagements consisting of local health care users, and leaders or governors of health service providers where valuable feedback was received on the future direction of local health care.

Patient Centred Care

Organized around a defined population, patient-centred care requires different parts of the health system to be coordinated to meet the needs and preferences of individuals and families. Through, inter-professional collaboration within primary health care and by facilitating access to the broader health care system, the South West LHIN and health service providers will ensure patients have access to the range of health services needed by individuals and families.

With the goal to improve access, accountability and performance, the LHIN will work with the Ministry to implement a multi-year collaborative reform strategy with primary care providers to better connect and integrate with other care providers. There is also a need for dedicated work to respond to the needs of currently underserviced Indigenous communities.

Provincial reports such as Bringing Care Home, Health Quality Ontario’s Advancing Integrated Care, Patients First: Action Plan for Health Care, the Price Baker Report and reports from key organizations such as the Ontario College of Family Physicians and the Ontario Medical Association, all emphasize the foundational role primary health care plays in coordinating care for people accessing the health system. This aligns with the LHIN’s Blueprint which calls for local care coordination and inter-professional support – where an integrated system of care includes primary care as part of the team.

Together with the LHIN, system partners will:

  • Work with the Ministry to implement a multi-year collaborative reform strategy with primary care providers.
  • Work towards same/next day access to primary health care.
  • Build capacity for primary health care to meet the needs of all populations within the LHIN.
  • Build capacity to identify and support people with chronic conditions in primary care.
  • Provide primary care physicians and their patients with more timely access to specialist care.
  • Advance the South West LHIN primary care network structure.

Addressing Communities with High Physician Needs

When a doctor moves, or retires, an entire community’s health care can be affected. For these communities, it is more difficult for residents to access a family physician. To help determine areas experiencing high primary care need in our geography, the South West LHIN has developed a defined, transparent, predictable approach with consistent criteria to support decision making.

The following list of criteria will be used to further understand and identify areas of high primary care physician need:

  • Information provided by the Primary Care Branch of the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care
  • Local data and knowledge:
    • Doctor to population ratio based on family physicians with a comprehensive care practice
    • Number of family physicians that are anticipated to retire this year, or within the next few years
    • Impact of potential retirements on local populations
    • Ability of the current complement of family physicians to meet the needs of the community by assessing patient attachment rates, family physicians engaged in specialty practices and other roles in communities
    • Family practice compensation models

The following general principles will be considered in identifying high need communities:

  • Travel time: A patient has to travel more than 30 minutes to access care in communities with a population of 30,000 or less.
  • Patient demographics: A high number of patients not connected to a family physician in community. A high number of medically complex patients, seniors and/or vulnerable people.
  • On the ground information from the Health Force Ontario Regional Advisor identifying high need areas.
  • An area not determined to be high need based on the criteria mentioned may be considered to be high need in order to serve surrounding high needs communities, provided it is within a 30 minute travel time.
  • An area with no physicians may be added to the high needs list if the area is a catchment for an identified high needs area.

Through this analysis, the South West LHIN will be able to identify and prioritize a number of areas of high primary care physician need. Communities that scored as highest need and/or highest risk in a number of areas will be identified on our list of Communities of High Primary Care Physician Need

Communities targeted for improvements through the Ministry’s Areas of High Physician Need list will be those with an existing Family Health Network or Family Health Organization model. More information on areas of high physician need can be found on the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care website.

A separate LHIN-wide strategy will be developed to address high physician needs in communities not identified on this list.

The LHIN will strive to maintain awareness of potential high needs communities about whether or not there is active recruitment happening. In communities without active recruitment, we will work with Health Force Ontario to determine how best to support community efforts.

For more information on the South West LHIN’s Communities of High Primary Care Physician Need list, please contact Kristy McQueen, Director System Design, Integration and Digital Health.

To discuss your community physician needs, please contact Jane Tillmann, Health Force Ontario Regional Advisor: 519-200-4896.

Primary Health Care Forum Sessions: Strengthening Primary Health Care in the South West LHIN

Thank you to everyone who attended our 2016 engagement sessions. If you couldn't make it, you can watch the video of our session in London, Ontario, or review our PowerPoint slideshow. 

The South West LHIN, the Ontario College of Family Physicians, and the Ontario Medical Association held five engagement sessions for all physicians, nurse practitioners, other allied health professionals and primary care administrators in the South West LHIN area. These sessions focused on strengthening primary health care, building greater understanding of primary health care capacity, and current primary care planning in the South West through presentations and interactive discussions. 

For more information, please email us your questions or feedback.