This article originally appeared in the Winter 2023 issue of the Ontario Medical Review magazine.
Physicians are at the heart of health-care transformation, with their work impacting patient lives far beyond the clinic, hospital or operating room.
An Ontario Medical Association campaign, the Value of Doctors, highlights this work with the Centred on Care video series released in late 2023. The campaign began in the fall with the release of three videos illustrating groundbreaking innovations Ontario doctors have introduced to help change the course of the province’s health-care system. It continues into 2024 after the OMA elections, with three more videos on the way.
“These videos are several shining examples of how Ontario’s doctors are delivering innovative and leading care for people in every corner of the province” — Craig DuHamel, OMA executive vice-president, Advocacy, Communications and Marketing
“These videos are several shining examples of how Ontario’s doctors are delivering innovative and leading care for people in every corner of the province,” said Craig DuHamel, executive vice-president of the Advocacy, Communications and Marketing department at the OMA. “They are inspiring examples of how our physicians are building a better health-care system.”
The stories shared are diverse in the specialty featured, patients served, care provided and geographic location shown. In each of the three videos posted in 2023, the physicians and health-care teams featured recognized an unmet need in a population and took it upon themselves to improve the situation.
Viewers hear from physicians who are leaders in their communities and have introduced innovative solutions to health-system challenges. The doctor-patient relationship is paramount, with physicians providing critical care to their patients, whether they are awaiting surgery, requiring mental health support or living in under-resourced communities.
The showcased work aligns with the OMA’s Prescription for Ontario: Doctors’ 5-Point Plan for Better Health Care report, its progress report outlining urgent health-care priorities – the primary care crisis, home- and community-based care, and burnout and administrative burden – and the Prescription for Ontario: Doctors’ Solutions for Immediate Action report discussing the solutions required for health-care reform.
The campaign’s first video, posted in late September, highlights the important work of NOSM University inspiring medical students to stay in their northern Ontario communities as practising physicians. Attracting and retaining doctors, nurses and other health-care professionals in the north is a persistent issue and an OMA priority.
“As Canada’s first independent medical university, NOSM University remains laser-focused on what we’ve been doing for two decades: helping the people of northern Ontario live longer, healthier lives,” said Dr. Sarita Verma, president, vice chancellor, dean and CEO of NOSM University, in the video.
The north’s 800,000 residents struggle to access equitable health-care resources, including primary care providers.
NOSM University’s model includes a four-week mandatory immersion program for medical students within an Indigenous community and other efforts to recruit and keep aspiring physicians in the region. The university, which has campuses in Sudbury and Thunder Bay, works with partners across the north to find new ways to address physician shortages, emergency department closures, government cutbacks, burnout and a large number of impending retirements, Dr. Verma said.
“We believe that everyone, regardless of circumstance or geography, deserves the dignity of fair access to health-care practitioners who are culturally competent, lead with compassion and integrity, and understand the realities of living in the rural and remote north,” Dr. Verma said.
So far, the university has helped more than 400,000 people access a family doctor with its influential work. But more is needed, she said, including more than 350 doctors and other health-care workers.
The campaign’s second video, posted in October, featured Dr. Sudip Saha, medical director of seniors’ health at William Osler Health System, who identified the growing need for specialized dementia care in acute-care settings.
The Acute Care for the Elderly Unit at Brampton Civic Hospital provides focused care to seniors who require acute medical treatment while also experiencing acute changes in their physical, cognitive and functional status.
It is the first acute-care hospital in the world to implement the Butterfly ApproachTM for dementia care. The model is being used in some long-term-care homes in Canada, the U.K., the U.S, Ireland and Australia, and provides emotional support to people living with dementia.
“People living with dementia are at higher risk for developing worsening confusion when they come to a hospital,” Dr. Saha said in an interview.
Anxiety can heighten confusion and lead to aggressive behaviour in dementia patients, slowing their recovery and delaying discharge or necessitating alternate levels of care, he said. The emotion-based, person-centred model of care for those living with dementia in Brampton Civic’s ACE unit recognizes that the patient’s emotional needs are as important as their physical needs.
The unit has seen some progress after adopting the Butterfly Approach, said Dr. Saha, including less utilization of anti-psychotics, a lower incidence of falls and a reduction in behaviours driven by anxiety.
The campaign’s third video, posted in late November, spotlights the work of Dr. Kevin Woodward and Dr. Tim Guimond at HQ Toronto, a centre for sexual, mental and social health in downtown Toronto that serves cisgender men who have sex with men, as well as trans people and non-binary individuals. The clinic is revolutionizing testing for sexually transmitted infections and offers mental and physical health care, as well as community and social programming.
Its rapid STI testing offers typical turnaround times of one business day for results, compared to a one- or two-week standard wait time at other clinics.
“And that’s really revolutionary for Canada, and really the world, in terms of the speed of access to care that these individuals can get,” Dr. Woodward, executive and medical director at HQ Toronto, said in an interview.
While most of its clients come from the Greater Toronto Area, HQ Toronto has had more than 1,100 visitors from every Canadian province as well as Yukon and Northwest Territories. The demand for its services has “far surpassed” what the clinic’s team had anticipated, said Dr. Woodward.
“We knew that the sexual health services could be innovative, and we also knew there was a huge need for mental health services within our community,” said Dr. Guimond, a psychiatrist and director of mental health at HQ Toronto.
The team hopes to increase its funding to offer services on the weekends and increase the scope of the sexual and mental health services it provides.
Stay tuned for three more Centred on Care videos to be posted in 2024 featuring physicians who are pioneers in their fields and working to create change in the health-care system.
Sophie Nicholls Jones and Jessica Smith are OMA staff writers.