Health Minister John Haggie took umbrage Thursday at the suggestion the provincial government does not have a plan to address the family physician shortage.
"I would take a little bit of issue with that," John Haggie told reporters, speaking about the release of a Newfoundland and Labrador Medical Association (NLMA) report on family physicians.
In the report, health-care consultant Dr. David Peachey developed a family physician forecast for the province. It found an additional 60 full-time family physicians are needed immediately in Newfoundland and Labrador to address the current shortage.
The report also indicated an average of about 20 more family doctors per year will be needed in the remaining nine years of the forecast period, for a total of 243 additional family doctors over the coming decade to meet the predicted needs of the population.
Taking into account physician practices dedicated to patient care, the report determined there are presently 431 family physicians in Newfoundland and Labrador who are full-time equivalents.
Peachy, a family physician, did previous reports of this nature for governments in Nova Scotia, Alberta, Yukon, the Northwest Territories, Nunavut, Saskatchewan and Manitoba.
The NLMA held a news conference about the report Wednesday.
Addressing media a day later, Haggie said the ongoing family physician issue facing Newfoundland and Labrador is one of access.
"In actual fact, if you look at Dr. Peachy's comments and his previous work, for example, in Manitoba, collaborative care models seem to be, even from his own data, the answer to our short- and medium-term problems."
Haggie said work to establish collaborative care is already a central focus of his department.
"It allows nurse practitioners, registered nurses … midwives when they come on-stream, dietitians, to operate to their full scope of practice," he said. "And to do that in that setting will go a significant way on Dr. Peachy's own numbers to managing the numbers."
Haggie said the NLMA is viewed as a partner that can offer insight to the government. He noted the government has only been able to look at the executive summary of the report, and he's not sure when the full report will be released.
"It's a mathematical modelling exercise," he said, later adding he would not argue with the NLMA on the notion that everyone deserves access to primary health care in a timely fashion.
"One of the thrusts of our mandate has been to do that, and we've had successes. We've had successes in Corner Brook. We've had successes in Bonavista. There are health teams being set up in Twillingate and Botwood, and where these occur, the access issue and the orphan patient issue is much smaller. We've discussed, for example, with the NLMA around virtual care and we have negotiations forthcoming. One of the other things they've talked about is how compensation models have been a barrier potentially, and they've finally come around to the idea that fee-for-service doesn't work in primary care."