The Lennox and Addington County General Hospital (LACGH) and Napanee’s family physicians are working together to reduce wait times for accessing care.
LAGCH chief of staff Dr. Kim Morrison said the hospital’s emergency department is trying a pilot project where the community’s doctors are helping patients six hours a day, which gives the department two physicians instead of one.
“The technical name for it is ‘the green zone.’ Within the emergency department our goal is to decrease wait times, get people through, and give them an option for access to care they might not have,” she said.
Morrison said about 20 per cent of the people coming into the emergency department don’t have a family doctor. Since starting the pilot project around the beginning of October, when Dr. Valli Hota retired, LACGH has managed to bring wait times down below the provincial targets.
“Our wait times for lower acuities are all down already,” Morrison said.
Morrison said the hospital realizes that with Napanee experiencing a shortage of family physicians, patients may not see many alternatives to an emergency visit. She encourages those patients with family physicians to call their offices first as they might be able to accommodate same-day appointments.
Failing that, the hospital hopes to encourage patients to take advantage of less-busy times to access care. A recent review of hospital data shows that Mondays and Tuesdays are the busiest days for emergency visits. The least busy are Saturdays and Sundays. Typically, the department gets busy around 10 a.m. and peaks at 2 p.m. The extra staff, including physicians, is on from 2-8 p.m.
“We suggest that to minimize your wait time for less urgent concerns, if possible you should present to the LACGH emergency room before 10 a.m. or between 3-7 p.m. any day of the week, or choose to come on weekends,” Morrison said. “Urgent medical concerns are always seen as quickly as possible whenever they present to the emergency room.”
According to Morrison, the hope is the long wait times will spread themselves out, allowing all patients to be cared for in a more timely manner.
Over a longer term, Morrison said patients without family doctors can help alleviate pressures on the system by registering with Health Care Connect, either by calling 1-800-445-1822 or visiting the website hcc3.hcc.moh.gov.on.ca. Morrison said fewer people than expected have registered for a doctor since Hota’s retirement and only 180 people registered in the last month. That list is also what the Ministry of Health uses in determining what parts of the province need additional services.
“I know people get frustrated because it takes a long time to get a doctor through this channel, but that’s what a doctor is following. Their numbers say Napanee has just over 800 unattached patients, which we know is wrong,” she said. “Patients will try all kinds of things (to get a doctor), we just need as many as possible to register with Heath Care Connect.”
Dr. Heather Khey- Beldman and Dr. Nathaniel Hart are continuing to roster patients after starting their practice in early November. Morrison said each has rostered about 300 people from Napanee, Deseronto, and Tyendinaga Township.
They plan to each take on 900 overall. Both, Morrison said, are registering off the Heath Care Connect list. Their partner, Dr. Andrei Garcia-Popov will start registering in July.
Morrison said local patients will also benefit from new funding in collaboration with the Napanee Area Community Health Centre to link allied health professionals with local family physician groups. The money allows quicker access for professionals like social workers, physiotherapists, respiratory educations and dietitian within a team-based care model.
LACGH is also seeking patient feedback at web. lacgh.napanee.on.ca/contact.