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‘GP For Me’ initiative gathers steam

Dr. John Hamilton; a physician and the Primary Care Program Director with Fraser Health; speaks during a press conference at UFV Chilliwack explaining the GP For Me program. A recent survey to the communities of Chilliwack; Agassiz; Seabird; Harrison Hot Springs and Hope garnered 3; 095 reponses from patients and caregivers. The results will help the Chilliwack Division of Family Practice put together a proposal for more
Dr. John Hamilton; a physician and the Primary Care Program Director with Fraser Health; speaks during a press conference at UFV Chilliwack explaining the GP For Me program. A recent survey to the communities of Chilliwack; Agassiz; Seabird; Harrison Hot Springs and Hope garnered 3; 095 reponses from patients and caregivers. The results will help the Chilliwack Division of Family Practice put together a proposal for more 'attached' care between patients and family physicians.
— image credit: Jessica Peters/ Black Press

Chilliwack’s family doctors have a busy workload, seeing patients in their private offices, in clinics, and in their rounds at CGH.

But local family physicians have also been working hard behind the scenes recently, looking at ways to provide even better care to their patients. The Chilliwack Division of Family Practice is conducting a health care improvement initiative called  A GP For Me. They hope to connect more people with family doctors, while streamlining workloads to improve efficiency.

A recent survey that ran in Black Press newspapers and online garnered 3,059 responses from community members. Questions covered off topics ranging from a patient’s needs, to availability of care.

“We were overwhelmed with the level of engagement we received,” said Katrina Bepple, program manager.

They were aiming to find ‘unattachment’ rates, the percentage of residents without a consistent family doctor. Of those who responded, 93 per cent indicated they had a family physician. Of those seven per cent who do not have a doctor, five per cent said they would want one. In the aboriginal community, the unattachment rate jumps to 15 per cent.  The results of the survey were discussed at a recent press conference held at UFV Chilliwack, one of the community partners involved in A GP For Me.

Dr. Melanie Madill is a lead physician with the initiative. She said they are working to close the gap, because all research shows that continuity of care can improve your health.

She sees about 30 patients a day, and the limit for physicians to treat patients is 52 a day.

Madill said there are inefficiencies built into the daily life of a physician, including tasks that could be delegated to other health care staff, such as nurse practitioners.  If their day were streamlined, each doctor could potential fit in more patients and decrease wait times. The trickle down effect could be that people would end up in emergency or at walk in clinics, alleviating congestion there. But more importantly, patients would be seeing their own doctor more consistently, she said.

Having a family doctor “improves health outcomes,” she said. “We are partnering to provide better health care for all of us.”

They are slowly increasing the number of nurse practitioners in the hospital, and they are running an active recruitment campaign to encourage more doctors to come to the Chilliwack, Agassiz, Harrison Hot Springs and Hope communities.

“We have a vital strategy to not abandon our patients,” Madill said, and to fill in gaps left when doctors retire.

Madill acknowledged that the current wait times are not ideal, and that it can frustrating for people moving to town when seeking out a family doctor.

She asked that people first contact the Primary Care Clinic in CGH, where the staff can assess their needs and put them in contact with a family doctor.

“That should be their first contact,” she said, adding that pregnant woman and people with complex care issues will be placed in higher priority.

“We can help them,” she said.

Dr. John Hamilton, a physician and the Primary Care Program Director for Fraser Health, underlined that attachment to a physician is of the utmost importance in communities across the province.

“We’ve had physicians working very hard in this specific way for the last four years,” he said, and some people may have already noticed improvements in how their GP’s office operates.

In B.C., 14 per cent of residents do not have a family physician.

While the last survey has wrapped up, the chance to weigh in on your health care needs is still available. A community forum will be held on Feb. 26, from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. at the Squiala Community Centre. Registration opens at 5 p.m., with a dinner served at 5:30 p.m.

The Chilliwack Division of Family Practice will be putting forth a proposal to the General Practices Services Committee about the community’s needs in mid-May, said Ken Becotte, the division’s executive director.

The whole process has opened up discussion among local doctors, he said, and has already resulted in changes.

“We’ve got them thinking about what’s working,” he said. Following the presentation to the GPSC, they hope to implement some new strategies.

For more information about the Primary Care Clinic at CGH, call  604-702-2850.

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