Western Health prepares for new collaborative care team for Stephenville area

The new model is designed to address the doctors shortage, but Mayor Tom Rose has concerns.

The Bay St. George Medical Clinic in Stephenville will be the hub site for the new collaborative care team. The five smaller area clinics will be supported by the main clinic in Stephenville. Supplied photo

Sakib Ibn Rashid Rhivu

Western Health is working on establishing a new “collaborative care team” to help people in the Stephenville area who do not have family doctors.

According to information Kicker obtained through an access to information request, the province has confirmed its support for the establishment of a collaborative care team. It sent a letter of confirmation earlier this year to Dr. Dennis Rashleigh, Western Health’s vice-president of medical services.

Six medical clinics in the Stephenville-Bay St. George “health neighbourhood” will be included in the collaborative care team. A spokesperson for Western Health says the clinics have the capacity to serve 19,000 people.

The Bay St. George Medical Clinic in Stephenville will function as a hub site. Five other smaller clinics – in Jeffrey’s, St. George’s, Stephenville Crossing, Lourdes and DeGrau – will get support from the clinic in Stephenville.

Tara Pye, regional director of communication for Western Health, says the collaborative care team still requires some time to recruit health professionals.

“Recruitment to our collaborative care team is underway and some of our team is in place,” she said. “It includes new physicians, nurse practitioners, registered nurses, licensed practical nurses (LPNs) and administrative support.”

Stephenville Mayor Tom Rose said he appreciates Western Health’s new approach. At the same time, he expressed worry about what he calls a health-care crisis.

“It’s a great model that Stephenville needs,” Rose said, pausing for a moment. “But Western Health’s recruitment and management have failed in keeping our emergency hospital for emergency surgeries up to the required staff units to operate.”

Tom Rose, the mayor of Stephenville, says a collaborative care team is essential for the people of Stephenville.
Tom Rose, the mayor of Stephenville, says a collaborative care team currently in development for the Bay St. George area is essential for the people of Stephenville. Rose says Western Health must still address recruitment and management issues that are affecting the availability of services in the area. Supplied Photo

When asked to respond to Rose’s concerns, Pye said, “Western Health continues to focus on the health-care needs of the Stephenville-Bay St. George health neighbourhood.”

She also says Western Health is working on starting the operation of the collaborative care team as early as possible. However, she said Western Health cannot yet provide a date when the service will be available.

“Our focus over the coming months will be on establishing our team, implementing new team-based services, supporting health-care navigation and strengthening our approach to enhanced virtual and in-person care,” said Pye.

While Western Health appears to be making progress, Rose suggests a doctor shortage might interfere with the success of the collaborative care team.

As the province struggles to recruit doctors in many areas, physicians already in the system are telling health authorities they need a better work-life balance.

“The days of physicians working round the clock are over now,” Rose said. “As professionals, they take their job very seriously, but they have to have a life with themselves and their family too.”

“There is still more work to be done.”

– Tara Pye, director of communications for Western Health

Pye is optimistic that the new model might help doctors manage their time.

“The addition of new roles within the collaborative care team will help create efficiencies and a holistic approach to client care,” Pye said. “Our goal is to have all providers working to their full scope of practice, which will lead to increased time available for physicians to provide other care for patients.”

Rose says Western Health should make an extra effort to inform people of this new team-based care. Having a new model, he says, is not enough if people do not know about it.

“They better have a good communication strategy in place to reach the people,” Rose said. “You can reach a lot of people through websites, Facebook or Twitter, but there are a lot of people in our area who don’t have the internet, or even a cell phone.”

Pye acknowledges the challenges and says Western Health is still in the preparation stage. It expects to sort everything out in the coming months.

“There is still more work to be done,” said Pye. “We expect much of this work to be accomplished within the next few months.”

A full list of communities included in the Stephenville-Bay St. George Health Neighbourhood and other necessary information are included on Western Health’s website.

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