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How Ontario's new health-care deal could change the way your family doctor works

$8.4B agreement with federal government would boost number of patients covered by family health teams


More family doctors in Ontario could begin caring for their patients in teams — alongside nurses, social workers and other health professionals — as a result of the new federal-provincial funding deal.


The deal between the governments of Premier Doug Ford and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is at this stage just an agreement-in-principle, so the two sides still need to sort out precisely how the promised $8.4 billion will actually be spent.


The first priority named in the funding agreement is providing Ontarians "access to high-quality family health services when they need them."


But Ontario is facing an acute shortage of family physicians that is only forecast to worsen. It's currently estimated that more than two million Ontarians are without a family doctor, and projections suggest looming retirements of physicians will push that number even higher.


With little prospect of rapidly and significantly boosting the number of family doctors in Ontario, how can the deal with the federal government increase access to primary care?


Experts say the key is allowing more family doctors to work in teams of health professionals so they can take on more patients.


Team-based care has long been shown to be better not only for patients but also for the well-being of family doctors, says Dr. Allan Grill, lead physician of the Markham Family Health Team and chief of family medicine at Markham-Stouffville Hospital in York Region just north of Toronto.


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