Dr. Dianne Keating-Power tells reporters Tuesday how closing her practice and joinging a team care clinic reignited her passion for medicine. Peter Jackson, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Premier Andrew Furey says the Doc Martin model of health care — a country doctor running a solo clinic with total autonomy — will slowly become a thing of the past in this province.

“Health-care professionals are not working in the old, traditional ways. The time of hanging out a shingle in a small community and caring for people from cradle to grave, 24 hours a day, seven days a week, is simply an antiquated and romantic notion,” Furey said Tuesday, March 21, in announcing plans for 10 new collaborative care clinics in the province, bringing the total to 18.

“As a government, we need to be there to support those professionals in that changing paradigm in a way that makes sense to provider and patient alike.”

The premier was joined by Health Minister Tom Osborne, Finance Minister Siobhan Coady and Eastern Health’s regional director of primary health care, Melissa Coish. The announcement took place at one such clinic on Pippy Place in St. John’s.

The province has also adopted a standard new term to replace the variations on “collaborative care” used in the past. They’ll now be known as family care teams.

Recruitment paying off

Thursday’s provincial budget will include $21 million in new funding to realize the 10 new clinics, which will be located in Bonavista, Brookfield-Centreville, Clarenville, Conception Bay North, Gander, Grand Falls-Windsor, Deer Lake-White Bay, Labrador West, Port aux Basques and St. John’s.

It’s estimated the 18 clinics, which include doctors, nurses and nurse practitioners, and other allied health professionals, along with administrative staff, will serve about 80,000 patients in total.

The ultimate aim is to have 35 clinics up and running within three years.

The Newfoundland and Labrador Medical Association has lobbied for team-based care for years, and says the number of people who self-identify as being without a family doctor now stands at 136,000, up from about 90,000 before the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The province disputes those numbers.

Asked whether more clinics will simply lure doctors away from their own patient rosters, Furey and Osborne both pointed to new bonuses to both recruit new doctors and retain doctors for at least one extra year.

Furey said those efforts have already resulted in two much-needed doctors being signed on for the Bonavista area in the past week.

“Students are being trained to work in interdisciplinary teams, and we know that working in teams provides greater satisfaction,” said Osborne.

But the fee-for-service family doctor will still play an important role for some time to come, he added.

“Family physicians are an integral part of the province’s health-care system. It is important that as we continue our efforts to recruit physicians in our province, that we must retain those who continue to provide valuable care to the residents of Newfoundland and Labrador.”

Osborne admitted the public will not likely see significant changes right away.

 “Significant change takes time and solutions are complex.”

‘Never looked back’

To illustrate the appeal of family care teams, former fee-for-service doctor Dianne Keating-Power spoke of her own experience at Tuesday’s announcement.

“For 12 years, I worked in a great clinic with some amazing staff, colleagues and patients,” she said. “Quickly, however, the burden of running a business and a full-time family practice clinic took its toll on myself and my family.

Keating-Power said she was months away from closing her practice and leaving medicine altogether when she joined the COVID-19 clinic at the beginning of the pandemic.

“It honestly changed my life,” she said.

“The COVID response team opened my eyes to collaborative team health care and it reignited my passion for medicine, and I have honestly never looked back.”

By Peter Jackson, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Original Published on Mar 22, 2023 at 05:28

This item reprinted with permission from   The Telegram   St. John's, Newfoundland
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