The Ontario Physiotherapy Association had its annual PHC Connect event on November 8 at the Burlington Family Health Team. PHC Connect is a networking event organized for physiotherapists working in primary health care organizations across Ontario.

It has been fascinating through my exposure as a physiotherapist (PT) in primary healthcare to learn how physiotherapists can impact and change the lives of many in the community. Physiotherapists play an integral role in the healthcare system and it has been clearly demonstrated through integration of physiotherapy services in the primary healthcare team. I work at the Four Villages Community Health Centre and we really value the feedback of clients through surveys about physiotherapy services and how these services impact change in their health. By tracking the data across the years, it is clear that physiotherapy is not only beneficial to reduce pain but also to lower the use of pain medications. We have a very strategic and vital capability to initiate and build health promotion strategies for our clients which is the base of a healthy community. We are extremely lucky to be part of a Physiotherapy Network for Physiotherapists working across primary health care in the Toronto area.

Emily Stevenson, PT lead for the network and Gillian Bone, Deputy CEO at the Four Villages Community Health Centre were panelists at the PHC Connect meeting. They talked about how they are preparing to be a part of an Ontario Health Team by aligning with local partners in the west end of Toronto including hospitals and other community agencies. Chris Sulway, physiotherapist by background and special advisor at the Ministry of Health, talked about the implementation of Ontario Health Teams and how it will affect and change healthcare delivery across the levels of healthcare.

In the afternoon session, we had some guest speakers talking about different programs they do at their local community health centers and how it impacts change. By bringing in so many healthcare professionals specializing in a similar level of care in the community, but at the same time having diverse populations and locations across Ontario, it instills the drive to achieve more and go beyond what we usually do. Throughout the day, attendees had a chance to network with their peers and learn about how physiotherapy services are being delivered across the province in addition to new projects they have been working on.

As an OPA member, I felt the event was of great value to my learning experience in general but also I gained better insight on my primary healthcare role as a physiotherapist. By the end of the day, I had a better understanding of how physiotherapy services are being provided in primary healthcare across Ontario. I realized the importance of providing physiotherapy care in a group setting as well as one-on-one.  Group physiotherapy programs such as Back to Movement, Strong and Steady, Living Better with Pain and Bone Fit programs are a success, indicating physiotherapy’s perceived value in addressing many domains of health promotion and non-pharmacological treatment for targeted patient populations. I am now better equipped with resources and more confident to design and implement similar programs at my community healthcare center. At the PHC Connect meeting, I also got a chance to network and build some new connections in the PT world.

By Adiilah Heenaye Sumser 
Registered Physiotherapist, BSc PT
The Four Villages Community Health Centre