Virtual Care Contract Not a Long-Term Solution to Doctor Shortage, says NLMA

NLMA President Dr. Gerard Farrell

Virtual care is here to stay, at least in some instances, according to government.

The province yesterday announced the details of a new deal with Teledoc to provide virtual care to those without a family doctor, and virtual emergency room coverage.

People signed on with Patient Connect will soon be able to avail of the new service, with government noting that as people are connected with family care teams and family doctors they will no longer be eligible for the virtual care service.

Vice President Digital Health and Chief Information Officer Steve Greene, Health Minister Tom Osborne and Deputy Minister of Health Transformation Pat Parfrey

When asked if the initiative is a temporary solution, or will be a permanent fixture, Health Minister Tom Osborne leaned towards the latter. Osborne says the goal is to have everyone connected to a family physician, but due to numerous factors there are some communities that will not be able to attract a family doctor.

Dr. Pat Parfrey, who is overseeing implementation of the Health Accord, says the province needs to embrace virtual care. “It’s the future,” says Parfrey, noting that the pandemic proved that virtual care can be an effective method.

The NLMA calls the virtual care contract a stop-gap measure, and not a long-term solution for the shortage of physicians in Newfoundland and Labrador.

President Dr. Gerard Farrell says virtual care can provide a solution for those without access to a family doctor, but recruitment to fill vacancies is still required.

As a stop-gap, Farrell says, it might help out.

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