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45 Family Health Teams may be approved early in 2005

TORONTO – According to the Ontario government, the first of 45 new Family Health Teams (FHTs) will be approved early in the new year as the McGuinty government moves forward with its plan to improve front-line care for patients, Health and
Long-Term Care Minister George Smitherman announced.

“We’re moving forward to ensure Ontarians can get the care they need, when they need it, and where they need it,” Smitherman said. “That’s why we’re creating Family Health Teams – groups of health care professionals who will work together to provide comprehensive care that is as much about preventing illness and promoting good health as it is about treating illness.”

Smitherman launched the formal application process for the new Family Health Teams in early December.

The government said it will create 150 Family Health Teams over the next four years, with the first 45 applications to be approved in early 2005. Family Health Teams will be comprised of doctors, nurse practitioners, nurses and other healthcare providers working together to meet the individual needs of patients around the clock, seven days a week.

“There is a great demand for these healthcare teams in communities across Ontario,” said Smitherman. “In fact, more than 100 communities have already asked the ministry how they can apply for one.”

Dr. Jim MacLean (pictured at left) is the Lead of Primary Care for the ministry’s Health Results Team. The Health Results Team is a group of health sector experts, appointed by the Minister in September 2004, to lead the implementation of the government’s healthcare transformation priorities. Dr. MacLean is touring the province, meeting with healthcare providers and community leaders who have expressed an interest in forming a Family Health Team. An information kit is being made available to help communities/providers establish their FHT.

“Healthcare providers are excited about this new initiative to strengthen primary care in Ontario,” said Dr. MacLean, a family physician, and CEO of Markham-Stouffville Hospital. “It will be exciting to see doctors, nurse practitioners, nurses, pharmacists and other healthcare professionals working in teams and doing what they do best to take care of Ontarians – I’m looking forward to talking to all the parties who have expressed an interest.”

FHTs are a major part of the solution to the family doctors shortage that has plagued much of Ontario for years. More than one million Ontarians can’t find a family doctor close to home, and 142 communities are under-serviced for basic healthcare.

“This is the number one health issue facing so many Ontario communities, places as remote as Red Lake and cities as large as Windsor,” Smitherman said. “These Ontarians deserve a solution. They have waited on too many governments for far too long. That’s why we’re moving forward.”

The minister also announced the establishment of the Family Health Team Action Group, headed by Dr. Ruth Wilson, former head of family medicine at Queen’s University, which will provide expert advice from different health disciplines on the design and implementation of Family Health Teams.

What Will Family Health Teams Do?

Family Health Teams (FHTs) will:

• Provide comprehensive primary health care services through an inter-disciplinary team of doctors, nurses, nurse practitioners and other health care providers as determined by local needs;

• Provide patient-centred care where health promotion, illness prevention and early detection/diagnosis is emphasized, and where the patient uses information received from providers to make informed decisions about self-care needs;

• Provide patients with expanded access to care through a telephone health advisory service and extended hours of practice;

• Help patients navigate their way through the health care system by linking them to other parts of the system, such as acute care, long-term care, public health, mental health, and community programs and services;

• In larger centres, include diagnostic and outpatient services such as X-ray, ultrasound and minor surgery;

• Use information technology, linking patient records across different patient care settings and give providers timely access to test results and other important information.

Information Sessions

Dr. Jim MacLean, Lead of Primary Care on the ministry’s Health Results Team, is touring the province over the next few weeks to meet with health providers/communities who have expressed interest in forming a FHT. There will be about 15 information sessions where Dr. MacLean will:

• Provide the context for FHTs and their key role within the government’s broader health transformation agenda;

• Share information on how to develop a FHT;

• Distribute information and toolkits that potential sponsors can use to move forward with developing their FHT;

• Hear from attendees on ideas and opportunities for local collaboration.

For more information about Family Health Teams go to the ministry’s website: