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Calling on leaders to enhance rural patient transfers across all provinces and territories


(Mississauga, ON) For many people in Canada who live in rural and remote communities, accessing high-quality, coordinated, and timely health care is a challenge. The College of Family Physicians of Canada (CFPC) and the Society of Rural Physicians of Canada (SRPC) are addressing this issue in a new consensus paper that highlights the need for more efficient patient transfers to and from hospitals and other medical facilities for people in rural and remote communities, including those living in Indigenous communities.[*]

Despite the mandate for universality and accessibility outlined in the Canada Health Act, many people living in rural and remote communities continue to face barriers in accessing care. The consensus paper, authored by the CFPC and SRPC’s Rural Road Map Implementation Committee (RRMIC), calls for a unified approach to planning, implementing, and evaluating patient transfers in rural settings.

“We are introducing several calls to action to improve patient transfers between medical facilities and calling on leadership across health care professions, institutions, and governments to increase support for community-based care and small rural hospitals. Our aim is to ensure that rural and remote areas are well linked and integrated with a larger network of care providers and tertiary institutions,” says RRMIC Co-chair Ruth Wilson, MD, CCFP, FCFP. “Reducing barriers to patient flow will help rural family doctors and other health care providers deliver the most appropriate care that’s closest to home for all patients.”

The paper calls on the implementation of system-wide improvements, including:
  • Adopting formal patient transfer arrangements among regional, provincial, and territorial institutions
  • Implementing a no-refusal policy to ensure patients receive timely care and are not turned away
  • Creating supportive policies that apply across all geographic boundaries within Canada so patients can easily receive the care they need even if it means travelling to an adjacent province or territory
  • Leveraging the use of virtual care technologies to support real-time consultations between local health care providers and other regional specialists
  • Enhancing the use of data to support evidence-based decision making and policy development
“It is time to set the record straight that the situation with rural and remote patient transfers is critical and urgent,” adds RRMIC member Rick Fleet, MD, PhD, CCFP (EM). “A robust health care system that supports all people living in Canada, regardless of geographic location, requires putting patients’ needs first. Standards and policies that support efficient patient transfers need to be modified and more accountability across systems, provinces, territories, and regions needs to be exercised.”

Supporting rural-specific research to inform best practices for patient transfers will help inform future work. The CFPC commissioned a study of patient transfers and will publish the findings in 2021/22.


About the Rural Road Map Implementation Committee

The Rural Road Map Implementation Committee (RRMIC) was established by the CFPC and the SRPC to influence rural health care policies, planning, programs, and practice. RRMIC is composed of senior leaders from the health, education, and research sectors. The other RRMIC member organizations are the Association of Faculties of Medicine of Canada, Canadian Association for Rural and Remote Nursing, Canadian Association of Emergency Physicians, Canadian Association of Staff Physician Recruiters, Canadian Federation of Medical Students, Canadian Medical Association, Canadian Nurses Association, Federation of Canadian Municipalities, HealthCareCAN, Healthcare Excellence Canada, Indigenous Physicians Association of Canada, Resident Doctors of Canada, and Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada.

About the College of Family Physicians of Canada

The College of Family Physicians of Canada (CFPC) is the professional organization that represents more than 40,000 members across the country. The College establishes the standards for and accredits postgraduate family medicine training in Canada’s 17 medical schools. It reviews and certifies continuing professional development programs and materials that enable family physicians to meet certification and licensing requirements. The CFPC provides high-quality services, supports family medicine teaching and research, and advocates on behalf of the specialty of family medicine, family physicians, and the patients they serve.

About the Society of Rural Physicians of Canada

The Society of Rural Physicians of Canada (SRPC) is the national voice of Canadian rural physicians. Founded in 1992, the SRPC’s mission is championing rural generalist medical care through education, collaboration, advocacy and research. The SRPC performs a wide variety of functions, such as developing and advocating health delivery mechanisms, supporting rural doctors and communities in crisis, promoting and delivering continuing rural medical education, encouraging and facilitating research into rural health issues, and fostering communication among rural physicians and other groups with an interest in rural health care. The SRPC is a voluntary professional organization with over 1,900 members representing rural physicians spanning the country.

CFPC Contact

Name: Susan Monic
Title: Manager, Communication Services
Tel: 905-629-0900 ext. 432
Email: [email protected]
CFPC: @FamPhysCan
Dr. Ruth Wilson: @cassonwilson

SRPC Contact

Name: Jennifer Barr
Title: Chief Operating Officer 
Tel: 1-877-276-1949  
Email: [email protected]

[*] College of Family Physicians of Canada. Call to Action: An Approach to Patient Transfers for Those Living in Rural and Remote Communities in Canada. Mississauga, ON: College of Family Physicians of Canada; 2021.

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