New Clinic Supports Equitable Access to Care

(Left to right) Back Row: Shana Magee, Shayda McCurdy, Caroline Fanti, Dr. Travis Marion and Karen Murphy; Front row: Sari Kirchman and Kathy Jarvinen

A new central intake and assessment model at Thunder Bay Regional Health Sciences Centre is improving patient experiences and making wait times more equitable for musculoskeletal patients across Northwestern Ontario.

Mandated by the Ontario Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care and in partnership with the North West Local Health Integration Network (LHIN), the adoption of “Rapid Access Clinics” (RAC) combines the Regional Joint Assessment Centre (hip and knee) and Inter-Professional Spine Assessment and Education (lower back pain) clinics. The central intake, assessment and management model of the RAC have proven benefits to both patients and providers.

Previously, patients were often waiting months for an assessment or referral to a specialist, which delays recovery and increases the risk of treatment complications. Now, all referrals go to one location – the RAC – and an assessment will occur in 2-4 weeks to determine if surgical treatment is necessary. Patients who don’t require surgery receive education, resources, a self-management plan and follow-up visits to monitor their progress.

“We’re committed to providing quality health care to patients across Northwestern Ontario. This new clinic significantly improves access to care for our regional musculoskeletal patients as well as the overall patient experience, which is integral to our Patient and Family Centred Care philosophy,” said Dr. Stewart Kennedy, Executive Vice President, Medical, Academics, and Regional Programs. “We’re thankful to our partners at the Ministry of Health and North West LHIN for supporting such advancements and enabling us to be healthy together.”

“This is the first step in an ongoing process to improve wait times for hip, knee and spine treatments”, said Caroline Fanti, Program Director, Regional Orthopaedic Program. “We’re really pleased to have the clinic up and running, and are already seeing some great patient success stories as a result.”

Ralph Grimshire was referred to the clinic after seeing a family physician for pain caused by degenerative joint disease in his hip. “I was very pleasantly surprised at how quickly my referral was accepted and how soon my initial appointment was made,” he said. “The care I’ve received so far has been so excellent and professional. The process has been very smooth and I especially appreciate how easy it’s been to get in touch with my care team. Knowing that I’m being well cared for has made this experience a lot less stressful.”

The long-term goal is to have all orthopaedic conditions streamlined through the Rapid Access Clinic, allowing patients to receive optimal treatment in an equitable fashion.

The Rapid Access Clinic is located at the Hospital’s Medical Centre building, suite 101. For more information, please visit or call 1-833-706-9417.