September 24, 2020

The following Ministry of Health communication was shared with health authorities, divisions and other partners earlier this fall.

The framework recognizes that we must work together in our pandemic approach. The document is being shared with our partners at this time to help primary care put supports in place to actively respond to COVID-19 testing and care in the community throughout the fall and winter.

The framework is informed by the experience of Divisions of Family Practice, health authorities, communities, General Practice Services Committee (GPSC) representatives and a review of more than 50 applications during the past six months. 

The framework aims to streamline processes in our pandemic response and maintain momentum and collaboration between health authority partners, Divisions of Family Practice and public health. It is our intention that this document provide guidance for primary care emergency  planning in support of the overall response by building on structures and processes already in place.

It also clarifies Ministry expectations:

  1. Submissions for new models of primary care are to be created jointly by local primary care partners to ensure they are timely, focused, well-coordinated and complement efforts already underway in the community. 
  2. Priority primary care services are to be coordinated and planned for through existing health authority and division partnership tables (e.g., emergency operations primary care task groups or newly established primary care coordination centres, collaborative services committees and primary care network steering committees). The framework provides important information on key deliverables that primary care system partners will need to continue working together to provide:
  3. COVID-19 testing and assessment sites, to establish COVID-19 screening, assessment and testing services.
  4. Consolidated clinics including practices adopting virtual care and non-COVID-19 essential and urgent physical assessment and treatment services.
  5. Outreach to vulnerable patient populations, including Indigenous populations. 
  6. Immunization targeted to preventing disease, with a focus on increased influenza vaccinations to high risk groups such as seniors, young children, residents of care settings and individuals with underlying health risk factors.
  7. Consolidated networks of care to lessen cross exposure of health care providers and patients (e.g., in-patient COVID-19 Units, long-term care, hospital, palliative, perinatal care, aligned with PHO guidance). 

This process is not meant to create significant new work, but rather support you and your partners in addressing gaps of primary care services required for your communities for both COVID-19 and non-COVID-19 patients between now and March 31, 2021.

The new approach will allow for regional decision-making through the completion of the template and budget spreadsheet with funding tracked through health authorities. Period reporting will be required to report to the Ministry the impact of actions taken (e.g. patient visits) along with the associated financial implications.

Period reporting will include initiatives previously approved by the Ministry of Health under the Interim COVID-19 Primary Care Services process, as well as new initiatives consistent with the key deliverables above.  As part of the period reporting process, the Ministry‚Äôs finance division will work with health authorities on the reimbursement of incremental costs associated with approved initiatives.  The Ministry  will not be required to review and approve any of the collaborative initiatives approved through previous planning and approvals processes. 

We also acknowledge that access to personal protective equipment (PPE) has been a challenge for some providers and we continue to make streamlining the process for accessing PPE supply a priority.

We appreciate all the efforts you have made to support patients in your community during this unprecedented time. We thank you for your flexibility and cooperation and we will continue to inform you of key updates.