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$100K grant for local family doctors to be tabled at city council

Kingston City Council will consider a one-time grant of $100,000 for clinic operational costs at next week's meeting.

It is part of the city's strategic plan to increase access to healthcare through recruitment and retention of family doctors, a need clearly put on display by the massive lines at CDK Family Medicine's rostering days this week.

Councillors will discuss a recommendation from city staff to offer a single $100,000 grant aimed at lessening the burden on local family doctors, with the intention being that doctors will have time freed up to be able to accommodate a wider array of patients in the area.

The grants, if approved, are expected to be used on costs like technological innovation or the hiring of more support staff so that doctors can focus more of their time on their patients.

"Family physicians in Kingston have shared that they spend as much as 40% of their time on paperwork which limits their time with patients," the report to council reads.

"Initial discussions with clinics suggest that they will explore the use of technology and additional professional health care staff (including Nurse Practitioners) to lessen the burden on physicians and practice an integrated team-based approach to primary care."

Staff note that applications for the grant will also have to demonstrate how such changes are sustainable following the exhaustion of grant funding.

The program is not yet fleshed out and many details would still have to be determined, but is being presented to council to inform them of staff's intention to expand family doctor recruitment and retention efforts, should council give them the green light.

Doctors will file claims for reimbursement on eligible expenses, a list of which has not been generated at this time.

City of Kingston Director of Strategy, Innovation and Partnerships Craig Desjardins said in an email that in consultation with family doctors, staff feel that this is a way to help address the shortage without actually adding more doctors.

"The program model has been developed through significant input from clinics and family physicians and other stakeholders," Desjardins said.

"Ultimately, the program is based on the premise that improving the efficiency of family physicians and clinics will enable doctors to spend more time in clinic hours seeing patients versus doing paperwork."

The report notes that while the $4.1 million in provincial funding for the building of a new clinic is welcomed, it isn't enough to meet the drastic need.

It alludes that the efforts and contribution of the provincial government are falling short.

"City staff understand and recognize that health care services are a responsibility of the provincial government and that municipalities do not receive adequate funding to finance health care services on an ongoing basis," the report reads.

"The recent announcement of more than $4M to support the launch of the Periwinkle clinic model, while extremely welcome, will address only 10,000 of the more than 30,000 residents without primary care. The need for municipal participation in this important public policy issue remains."

If approved, the city will tap into a $1 million top up for the recruitment and retention program that was approved by the previous council.

The $2 million that was initially approved for this program is expected to be fully allocated by the end of 2024.

The second of two Rostering Days at CDK Family Medicine on Sutherland Drive resulted in people lining up for nearly 24 hours and camping out overnight in order to ensure a spot.

Some have been critical of the way CDK has been rostering new patients, but the clinic said there's no perfect way to go about this.

"While we understand some patients are unhappy about the wait-times and we are still learning about how to improve the CDK Rostering Day experience, we are not the cause of the doctor shortages and there is no automated way to "batch roster" patients, either by MOH or by Health Care Connect," a statement on the clinic's website read.

"Hence rostering through multiple channels--in-person, through HCC, off retired doctors' lists and through referrals by doctors - is the only way to connect patients quickly to a family doctor. There is no single way of rostering that would satisfy every individual."

Some took to social media with gripes about the way CDK went about rostering patients, including complaints like leaving to go to the bathroom and losing their spot entirely during that time.

The clinic urged news agencies to use their website as the source of information when it comes to rostering, and not social media posts.

"We also ask that journalists and news agencies refer to our website rather than to Facebook posts for "facts" and to gain a balanced view," the clinic wrote.

"Negative press has and will continue to hurt the rostering process."

CDK has not returned request for comment.

The clinic says they've rostered roughly 600 patients in just two days - the next date for a rostering day at the clinic has yet to be announced.

Owen Fullerton, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, YGK News