Health care over the holidays
As we head into the busy holiday season, I encourage all my primary care colleagues to develop plans to ensure access and coverage for your individual practices and the Family Health Teams, Community Health Centres, NPLCs, groups and organizations to which you belong.
This has been a challenging year and people deserve their much-anticipated time off during the holiday season. We also know that the pandemic has increased patient needs - from mental health to delayed access to surgeries or investigations and infectious diseases. It continues to place pressure on emergency and acute care services across Ontario, as well as on primary care practices. To help reduce hospital overcrowding and support timely access to health care services, we need to plan proactively for the holiday season, even more so than in previous years.
Below are some planning tips for the holiday season:
Include your office hours over the holiday period, including any after-hours care options for your patients in your voicemail message or website (a template can be found here).
- For those in groups, divide the two weeks so that half the team provides coverage during the first week, including December 25 and the other half covers the second week, including New Year’s Day
- For those in smaller practices, consider making local arrangements with neighbourhood practices to provide cross coverage
Consider that community physicians can bill A888 (Emergency Department Equivalent) from December 25th – Jan 1 inclusive. In addition you can bill a virtual code (K080,K081,K082) and the A888 ON THE SAME DAY, BUT NOT ON THE SAME PATIENT (See #28 in the attached OMA bulletin).
- Make sure your patients who are on critical or controlled meds have enough to cover the holiday period
Here's info on health services available for patients over the holidays (in addition to your own office):