Patients in Ontario now have better access to a physician, they are receiving more services and the quality of care being delivered has improved according to a new report released by the Ontario Medical Association on primary care. The same report also notes that changes to primary care have led to a reduction in non urgent visits to the emergency room.
The report, "Primary Care in Ontario: Reforms, Investments and Achievements", illustrates that having access to a family doctor decreases the number of emergency room visits for minor conditions. For example, the number of semi-urgent and non-urgent visits to the ER dropped by over 12 percent between 2007 and 2010 for patients enrolled with a primary care physician (Figure 1). This finding is consistent with a report released by ICES in 2008 which noted that not having access to a family doctor resulted in more than 118,000excess emergency room visits annually and more than 17,000 excess hospital admissions.
In addition, the report also reviewed the impact of primary care reform in the province and among the findings it reveals that:
According to the Frontier Centre for Public Policy, Ontario ranks first in Canada when it comes to primary care performance from the perspective of the consumer;
The number of services provided during after-hour periods more than tripled between 2003 and 2010;
New care models have improved chronic disease management, especially diabetes;
The new primary care models have resulted in fewer referrals from family physicians to other doctors, representing a cost saving for the health budget;
There are over 2 million more patients who now have access to a family doctor that didn't in 2003 (Figure 2);
There are nearly 10 million patients rostered to nearly 8,000 primary care physicians; and
According to the Institute for Clinical Evaluative Sciences (ICES) 99.6 per cent of the population living in communities with 30,000 or more people have access to a primary care provider within 30 minutes.
"It's clear; the investments that have been made into primary care and physicians are paying off and patients are benefitting with greater access to care and to more services. Now is not the time to put the brakes on this progress. We must continue to move forward towards the goal of ensuring every person in Ontario has access to a family doctor."
"Ontario is a leader when it comes to primary care reform in Canada. Ontario's doctors were pleased to learn that the Drummond report not only called for the expansion of Family Health Teams but also stated that physicians should have a greater role with respect to primary care planning in their respective communities."
Stewart Kennedy, MD
President, Ontario Medical Association