December 17, 2002

Kris Dundas
Media Relations & Communications Officer
Faculty of Medicine & Dentistry
The University of Western Ontario
(519) 661-2111, ext. 86415

Bärbel Hatje
Communications Consultant LHSC
(519) 685-8500, ext. 35947

Byron Family Medical Centre first Family Health Network in London

(Tuesday, Dec. 17, 2002 -- LONDON, ONT.) Health Minister Tony Clement today announced that the Byron Family Medical Centre is London's first Family Health Network, an initiative under the provincial government's primary care reform.

A Family Health Network (FHN) is a group of five or more physicians working together to provide accessible, coordinated care to enrolled patients, 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

The Byron Family Health Network, one of two family medical centres of London Health Sciences Centre, will continue to provide its patients with a multi-disciplinary approach to family care.

What will change, explains Dr. John Sangster, Medical Director of the new Byron Family Health Network, is that the centre's approach will now be in line with the province's primary care reform model.

Patients who enroll with a Family Health Network are required to seek treatment from their FHN family physician first, unless they are travelling or find themselves in an emergency situation. In turn, they will have 24/7 access to primary care.

The physicians at the FHN will provide broad-based comprehensive care, with a shared on-call and vacation schedule, and a predictable income.

"At Byron we have been providing 24/7 care for our patients over the past 24 years, so for us the change to a Family Health Network really is a change in the funding model that we will be using," says Sangster.

The fee-for-service model will be replaced by a blended payment model that allows physicians to receive sustainable remuneration for the provision of multi-disciplinary care.

"This opens up a number of opportunities at the Byron clinic," says Sangster. "For example, it provides the potential for using other primary care providers in our integrated health services delivery."

Residents on a Family Medicine rotation will also benefit from the new model. One of the first teaching clinics in the province to become a Family Health Network, Byron Family Health Network has eight residents in training at any one time throughout the year from The University of Western Ontario.

"The Family Health Network will model to trainees the emerging method of providing family care in our community and encourage them to explore similar models when they are setting up their own practice," says Dr. Tom Freeman, Chair of Family Medicine at Western's Faculty of Medicine and Dentistry and a family physician partner at the Byron Family Health Network.

"A further benefit is the capacity we have to evaluate the impacts on the benefits to the community and the practice preferences of our graduates. Overall, this will promote primary care renewal by providing an appropriate model for residents."

London Health Sciences Centre fully supports the centre's move to becoming a Family Health Network.

Tony Dagnone, President and CEO of London Health Sciences Centre, says there are great benefits to London Health Sciences Centre and to the Ontario health care system as a whole.

"What we will see resulting from these changes is better utilization of emergency rooms, as well as improved recruitment and retention of family physicians," says Dagnone. "For our community it means improved access to family health care, and a healthier community is what we are all striving for."