Strengthening Primary Care in the South West LHIN

With the goal of improving access, accountability and performance, the South West LHIN will work with the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care to implement a multi-year collaborative reform strategy.  The core of this work will be connecting and integrating Primary Care Providers with other care providers. There is also a need for dedicated work to respond to the needs of currently under serviced 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 key reports from 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-Vision 2022 document, which calls for local care coordination, inter-professional support and an integrated system of care that includes primary care as part of the team. Improving access to primary care is also a focus of the South West LHIN’s 2016-19 Integrated Health Service Plan (IHSP).

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.

Understanding Health Inequities and Access to Primary Care

A person’s income, education, ethnicity, geography, ability and gender can determine their vulnerability to illnesses, the severity and consequences of ill health, and their ability to access health care. In 2016, the South West LHIN in partnership with the West Elgin Community Health Centre jointly sponsored a study called Understanding Health Inequities and Access to Primary care in the South West LHIN to gain a better understanding of the needs of those facing multiple barriers to accessing health care. The study also works to understand the changing demographics of both the general population and Primary Care Providers.

Based on the findings of the study a report was generated with recommendations to support equitable access to primary care. The research focused on five vulnerable groups:

  • Indigenous people;
  • ethno-cultural groups and recent immigrants;
  • rural residents;
  • people with low socioeconomic status; and
  • seniors.

The report identified five key barriers for these groups including poor timeliness of care, geographical, financial, health literacy, and poor relationships with health care providers.

It also outlines five overarching recommendations that support equitable access to primary care including: 

  • Every person in the South West LHIN will have access to culturally safe primary care, regardless of their culture, economic status or where they live, that is provided by primary care providers who have the necessary knowledge and skills to communicate with patients such that the patients feel respected and receive information that they can understand and act on to improve their health.
  • Every person in the South West LHIN will have timely access to primary care, including same day, next day, planned visits and after hours care.
  • To support the provision of optimal (quality) primary care, all primary care providers must have access timely, consistent, effective wrap-around services in office (or virtual) for patients aligned with need.
  • Timely, quality primary care will be available to people in the South West LHIN by ensuring the right mix and distribution of primary health care providers throughout the region.
  • Primary care providers will have access to shared information on patients including real time data and resources available to enable them manage the health of the population and work collaboratively with other health care providers in the provision of seamless care and services for their patients.

These recommendations will now inform the development of a comprehensive, integrated and coordinated primary health care system in the South West LHIN.

Fall 2016 Primary Care Provider Forums

On December 7, 2016, Ontario passed the Patients First Act that will help patients and their families obtain better access to a more local and integrated health care system, while improving the patient experience, and delivering higher-quality care. The Act includes transformational and structural change to the health care system, closer alignment of primary care and public health to other health service providers, sub-region geographies for health planning, the transfer of CCAC service responsibilities to the LHINs, and inclusion of Indigenous voices in health care planning.

During October and November 2016, the South West LHIN invited family physicians and nurse practitioners to attend primary care provider forums to give feedback to the LHIN about the changes in the Patients First Act, as well as how to be successful in implementing changes. The LHIN will be using the advice and recommendations from the forums to help develop strong clinical leadership both at the LHIN and sub-region levels.