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July 25, 2007 - LHIN gives tips on how to find a doctor

Belleville Intelligencer
By Barry Ellsworth

Local News - Paul Huras has some tips for people trying to find a family physician.

The chief executive officer of the local health integration network (LHIN) - the organization that controls funding for 126 local health groups including Quinte Health Care hospitals - shared his thoughts on the subject during an editorial board session at The Intelligencer Tuesday.

  1. Contact the department of family medicine at Queen's University in Kingston - they may know of some recent graduates who have set up in the Quinte area and are accepting patients;
  2. Call local doctors, of which there are about 75 in the Hastings-Prince Edward counties area. Sometimes a doctor will be able to take four or five patients but does not advertise the fact because the office would get hundreds of telephone calls;
  3. Write to local family doctors, explaining "anticipated health-care" needs. This method was used by a person new to the area as an employee of the South East LHIN office in Belleville and it worked, Huras said;
  4. Go to the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario website, where there is a listing of family doctors and whether they are taking on new patients.

"That's what I would do," Huras said.

The chronic shortage of family doctors was just one of the topics broached during a wide-ranging interview with Huras and LHIN board chairman Georgina Thompson.

The LHINs - there are 14 in Ontario - have taken over funding and co-ordinating for most health-care services, with the exception of groups involving doctors, such as Family Health Teams and OHIP billing and public health units.

The LHINs, run by a board of directors, began to set up in 2004 and took over from the Ministry of Health in April 2007. The South East LHIN has 22 paid employees, some drawn from closed Ministry of Health branches, plus the board. Its territory runs from Brighton east to Prescott, north to Bancroft and Smiths Falls and south to include Prince Edward County. The population is roughly 500,000.

While funding for the seven hospitals in the area, including Quinte Health Care, has been assumed, some organizations will take longer to come on board.

The LHINs are not set up to handle crises quickly, Huras said.

A log-jam of beds at Quinte Health Care is a serious, ongoing problem. The hospital has elderly patients filling beds, and others lying on gurneys in the emergency department awaiting admission, because there are no nursing home openings.

The LHIN, QHC and the access centre are working on the situation. Access centre staff will be set up in the emergency department at Belleville hospital to assess patients there for the best care, be it at the hospital, or home-care.

There should be a turn-around in the situation in the "next couple of months," Huras said. But the problem will creep up from time to time because of the area's aging population.

Thompson and Huras were asked what guarantee people had for the continuation of the LHINs if a new party comes to power in the October provincial election.

Huras said the legislation to create the LHINs was passed and while the two other parties - Conservative and NDP - are critical of some aspects of it, they still supported the bill.

The legislation should be enough, together with the support, to keep the LHINs up and running.

Here is the information on how to contact Queen's family medicine department: 613-533-2000, or e-mail fmcc@post.queensu.ca, or write Department of Family Medicine Administrative Office, 220 Bagot St., P.O. Box 8888, Kingston, ON, K7L 5E9.

The college of physicians and surgeons website is www.cpso.on.ca. Go to Doctor Search and pick the city under easy search for a list of family doctors in your area. Some doctors are listed more than once and not all will be doing 100 per cent family medicine.