Family physicians are an important part of the IWK team

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photos by Scott Thieu

Despite the many rapid changes over the last number of weeks since the COVID pandemic the family physician team is keeping it all in perspective.

“Beautiful babies are born every day at the IWK and it remains a privilege to be there for our patients, who we have often known for many years. Family doctors deliver almost 50 per cent of the babies born at the IWK and care for almost all the well newborns at the IWK,” says Dr. Lynn Bussey, chief, Family Medicine.

For family physicians the show must go on. Lots of babies are still being born. In fact, birth unit was at capacity on April 24 with 26 births – the highest recorded number in many months.

There are approximately 45 family doctors that regularly work at the IWK. They provide 24 hour service to support newborns. They also still provide a 24 hour in house service to support family medicine obstetrics.

“For the last 25 years hospitals have seen the steady erosion of the role of the family physician in hospital care.  I am delighted that at the IWK this is certainly not the case!  Family physicians have always had a strong presence here, in their role to support their patients to deliver babies and provide care in our newborn unit,” says Dr. Doug Sinclair, vice president, Medicine, Quality & Safety.

“More recently they have stepped up to help staff our COVID assessment unit and assisted our Emergency Department when we encountered high volumes in our winter flu season,” says Sinclair.  “And perhaps most important of all – they connect us to the wider primary care community and assure that our services are relevant and timely for the patients and families we serve.”

Delivering care during a pandemic has ushered in many changes. There’s a lot of new information and processes to integrate into the care. Appointments are now virtual whenever possible. Family physicians are trying to address questions and alleviate patient concerns about COVID-19 while guiding patients through an ever-changing health care environment. This includes different ways to access services such as diagnostic imaging, blood collection and pharmacy.

“We are supporting each other. We are FAMILY medicine and “stronger together,” says Bussey. “It’s inspiring how hard everyone at the IWK is working collaboratively together to keep everyone safe and informed.”

For Dr. Bussey and the other family physicians at the IWK, one of the most important things is for patients to know they are still available.