Department Head Blog
Inside "The Green Room"
The arrival of fall has seen, as predicted, the onset of the second wave of COVID-19 and a resurgence of cases around the world. This has brought the re-institution of previously lifted restrictions on some forms of socialization and economic activity, and is once again straining the health-care system in some areas.
The response to the first wave of COVID-19 included rapid and broad reductions in access to essential medical services, including those offered by family physicians in their comprehensive primary care practices. This has had a significant negative impact on patients, many of whom have deferred not only elective care, but essential care for acute and chronic conditions, mental health issues, sexual and reproductive health services, immunizations, and preventive care services like cancer screening.
Our hospital and specialty partners are reporting patients arriving with more-advanced disease and having difficulty obtaining required follow-up in the community. This is despite the fact that many family practices are as busy as ever and working very hard to provide care safely under recommended guidelines for health-care operations during this pandemic. We’re operating at over 75 per cent of normal capacity provincially, yet this is not enough to meet patient need.
For me, this has underscored the importance of primary care and the absolutely essential nature of the wide scope of services and care we provide to our patients and communities. I want to thank all of you for your own efforts in providing high-quality and accessible care to your patients through this challenging time.
Pillar 4 of our strategic plan focuses on our workplace culture and environment. Within this pillar, Objective 3 calls on us to “Foster nimble approaches and constant improvements.” While this was written pre-pandemic, it has never been more important than at present. Here, locally, I have seen our staff, faculty, and residents adapt quickly to the ever-changing situation — rapidly adopting virtual care and supervision, and virtual teaching and physical distancing protocols, initially and progressively increasing both in-person care and learning with appropriate precautions.
As department head and as primary care lead for COVID-19 for Ontario Health East Region, I have had the opportunity to hear how this is occurring broadly across all our teaching sites and across the region. Family doctors are stepping up to partner with hospitals and Ontario Health in the operation and staffing of assessment centres and other testing strategies, providing essential physician leadership within their communities and working with public health to deliver key preventive services like influenza immunizations.
I have also seen unprecedented levels of collaboration and co-operation within primary care. At the provincial level, our family medicine and primary care organizations like the Ontario College of Family Physicians, the Ontario Medical Association’s Section of General and Family Practice, the Association of Family Health Teams of Ontario, the Alliance for Healthier Communities, and the academic departments of family medicine have come together to pool resources and support primary care practices and providers with consistent advice and sharing of innovative practices.
Regionally and locally, practices are working together to support each other, identify common concerns, and seek solutions to the challenges they are facing. The need for primary care to have a unified voice and structures to support these collaborations has never been more clear, and will be an important foundational element of Ontario health teams as they are implemented across the province. I will be working diligently with all our partners on this over the coming months.
THANK YOU again for all your efforts.
Together, we can get through this and come out stronger on the other side.
Dr. Michael Green