As a care facility, licensed retirement homes very often have a general practitioner or a nurse practitioner, as an ‘in house medical service’.

You can’t unfortunately utilize the in-house physician as well as your own GP, but you may consider switching to the GP at your new residence. If you don’t have a family doctor already, then being welcomed by the in-house team could be very beneficial, as well as for the following reasons;

1. Ease of communication: Being a patient of the in-house practitioner often means a ‘one stop shop’ for your care support once you’ve moved in. The director of care in your building will be discussing with you and putting in place a care plan (even if you need very little ‘help’), and they often do the liaison with the resident doctor, organising their visits, being on hand during patient consultations, giving the Dr updated information on your health concerns or reason for the appointment. This is not something they would be able to do with such fluidity if your GP was located outside of your retirement home. They also have direct access to the Dr/their office, as well as to the in-house pharmacy, meaning queries or challenges can be more quickly resolved because of this.

2. Ability to be seen quickly: Very often, the in house medical provider will run a clinic at the residence every week or two weeks. Through Covid these still happened and were virtual but they have opened up again to be in-person. This means that at the most, the longest you’d have to wait to see the Dr, is usually two weeks which is often a lot less than if you were booking through their general practice. The director of care or lead nurse in your residence usually arranges the appointments and is there to brief the Dr on your/their concerns at appointment time. You can have a family member attend with you, just as you can a regular doctor’s visit.

3. All in house: As per the first point with ease of communication, the fact that the Dr is ultimately part of the residential care team means that there are far less steps to take to have full patient centred care. The nursing team or director of care has a level of access to the Dr to ask questions or seek advice about treatment options or concerns over your health status. For instance, if they suspect you may be suffering from a UTI, they can consult with the Dr to have antibiotics prescribed, while collecting a sample and having it tested. Equally, if the Dr orders blood tests, very often there is an external service that will come into the residence regularly to do this, meaning you aren’t having to go to a clinic and the director of care is aware of all that’s happening. And, with all of it ‘in-house’ there’s no driving to the Drs office, certainty in inclement weather and negotiating parking!

Equally, you may consider not switching from your current provider for the following reasons;

4. New person, new relationship: This speaks for itself – changing over when you have your own Dr may not be necessary. Especially if you have a good relationship with your GP, they hear and understand you, you’re able to quickly get referrals and appointments and you have confidence in how they’re managing your health care. Moving to a new practitioner who you don’t know may be disruptive for you. You can always change your mind, but if the in house Dr doesn’t work out for you, it could be very hard to get back on the roster of your previous physician.

5. Possible shortage: Although many residences do have a Doctor as part of their offering to residents, they have no control over whether that Dr retires, moves on, decides they no longer want to do it or any other external factors. And just like every position in healthcare right now, there is a shortage of GPs and GPs who wish to add to their clinic and clinical hours noby providing services to residences.

6. Paying extra for the privilege: Not all, but some residences are now including a monthly charge to residents if they wish to be a patient of the in house Doctor. This is because the home themselves has to pay the Dr, on top of what they get from OHIP for actually having/seeing you as a patient. Also, for nursing attendance at each appointment. For the most part this was absorbed by the home as part of operating costs but increasingly we’re seeing it as an added cost. We have seen from $20/m to $50/m being asked by residences.

As always, if you have questions about this or anything regarding seniors housing or retirement homes, don’t hesitate to call us at 613-421-6073!