TWO CHANGES to the way health care is being provided here are to have significant benefits to both residents and to the local medical community, says the Northern Health Authority’s medical director for the region.
And although both are separate initiatives, they do merge with the goals of providing better patient care, of reducing pressure on Mills Memorial Hospital’s emergency room (ER) and they not only help keep existing physicians from leaving but attract more, says Dr. Jaco Fourie.
The first initiative is to form a pool of doctors who’ll work at the Mills ER during its busy periods. The ER does have a staff physician but it’s a weekday position and when that doctor is not on duty or during what Fourie calls “surge periods,” additional care is provided by a rotating on-call schedule of the city’s general practitioners.
That’s not always efficient nor convenient, especially if doctors who have already had a busy day at their clinics are called in, said Fourie.
But the formation of a call group of doctors specifically to work shifts in the ER will do much to relieve pressure, he added.
“We do have existing physicians who already work who have young families and who may want to do a four-shift here and there,” said Fourie of who might make up the ER call group.
“Additionally we also have doctors on contract or who are 0.5 full-time equivalent who might also have that kind of flexibility.”
Unlike traditional fee for service billing, the physicians in the ER group will be paid a salary and local Northern Health officials are now waiting to hear if their proposal has been approved by Northern Health’s headquarters in Prince George.
Fourie fully expects the new call group to be in place late this month or early into May.
Having a specific group of doctors signed up to work ER shifts as opposed to the existing rotating on-call shared by the medical community will also help retain physicians already here and attract additional ones, Fourie noted.
The other significant addition to health care is the opening within weeks of the Lazelle Ave. Medical Clinic at the Lazelle Mini-Mall.
It’s anticipated to draw people who don’t have a family doctor and who now go to the ER for service that doesn’t fit what the ER is more properly there to provide, said Fourie. “We’re hoping this will relieve that pressure on the ER so it is not so overrun,” he said.
The expectation is the clinic will also be open during periods when the others are closed, a circumstance that will also reduce the need for ER visits.
“What the goals here are is to deliver the right care at the right place at the right time,” said Fourie of the overall concept being developed.
It’s also anticipated that some of the physicians at the clinic will have the ability to take on people who don’t now have a family doctor.
Unlike a traditional walk-in clinic elsewhere, which could be a standalone practice, this one will be more integrated with existing clinics.
“As an extension of the existing clinics, there will be file sharing of information. That might or might not be the case somewhere else,” said Fourie.
And a new clinic here will help recruit physicians because they’ll know there’ll be space for them, he said.