May 21, 2024

Dr. Jennifer Robert, who has worked with Niagara Health since 2015, started her new position on April 1

NEWS RELEASE

NIAGARA HEALTH

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We are pleased to announce the appointment of Niagara Health’s first Chief of Primary Care, Dr. Jennifer Robert.

The hospitalist, who has worked with Niagara Health since 2015, started her new position on April 1.

The new role will support more communication and collaboration between the hospital and primary care providers at a time when there’s a shortage of family physicians.

“The pandemic put immense stress and pressure on both hospital-based physicians and family physicians. We need to lean on one another and work together to repair our healthcare system in order to be able to provide safe and quality care to the members of our community,” Dr. Robert said of why she wanted to lead the creation of this new department. “Strong partnerships between the hospital and primary care providers will lead to better patient experiences while in the hospital, increased safety for patients transitioning from the hospital back to the community and limit the need for patients to return to the hospital for follow-up care.”

As the inaugural Chief of Primary Care, Dr. Robert will lead the development of the new department. She will have a dual mandate, not only overseeing inpatient care provided by hospitalists, but also outpatient engagement with Niagara primary care providers.

Lynn Guerriero, President and CEO of Niagara Health, said the Chief of Primary Care position will play a critical role in helping the organization navigate the ongoing and longterm challenges that come with the nationwide shortage of healthcare workers by bridging gaps between the hospital and primary care providers in the community, which will improve patient care.

“Hospitals are only one piece of a very complex healthcare puzzle and that’s why we need to build on our partnerships with primary care providers in Niagara,” Guerriero said. “In order to deliver patient-centred, high-quality care, all pieces need to work together seamlessly. This new role will be central to ensuring seamless collaboration with community primary care.”

News of the new role was welcomed by Niagara Region’s Medical Officer of Health and Commissioner Dr. Azim Kasmani and Jill Croteau, Niagara Region’s Physician Recruitment Specialist.

“Access to primary care is an essential contributor to the health equity of our community. The appointment of a Chief of Primary Care is a positive step forward for Niagara Health and primary care in Niagara. We look forward to building on our regional partnerships and collaborative strategies to ensure that patients have timely and adequate access to primary care services across the region,” Dr. Kasmani said.

“I have had the pleasure of working with Dr. Robert as a family medicine resident and a family physician and look forward to working with her as Chief of Primary Care. The appointment of this new role will help to advance our collective goal to develop a strong primary care system in Niagara,” Croteau said.

Niagara Region is short 81 family doctors, resulting in more than 140,000 unattached patients. In her new role, Dr. Robert will help support recruitment of family doctors to Niagara by strengthening partnerships with medical schools, including McMaster University’s family residency program.

Dr. Robert, who grew up in St. Catharines and chose to practice medicine in Niagara as a way to give back to the community, said she’s seen first-hand the toll it takes on patients who have inconsistent or non-existent access to primary care.

“Patients don’t know where to turn or how to navigate the health system when they face significant illnesses,” she said. “This truly is heartbreaking and unfortunately leads to longer patient stays, greater burden placed on hospital infrastructure and most importantly, insufficient support to get patients home safely.”

Dr. Robert said as Chief of Primary Care she plans to create a model where primary care providers can be supported to work in the hospital and in the community without straining resources.

“We need to restructure the way we practice hospital medicine,” she said. “Primary care providers practicing in our hospital will provide more comprehensive care to our inpatients and help support a safe transition home.”

Dr. Robert, who is an Assistant Clinical Professor (Adjunct) at McMaster University in the Department of Family Medicine, has been an active staff physician at Niagara Health since 2018. She has also held the position of Head of Service for Medicine at the Niagara Falls Hospital.

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