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I keep hearing about “tertiary and quaternary care” at the MUHC. What does this mean?

Primary care is the first point of consultation for all patients within the healthcare system. Primary care often refers to check-ups, preventative care and the treatment of common ailments, and is usually provided by a family medicine physician or nurse practitioner at a clinic/CLSC. Secondary care often involves the referral of a patient to a specialist at a hospital for a closer assessment or treatment.

Tertiary and quaternary care represent the most advanced form of health care and may include complex surgery, such as neurosurgery, cardiac surgery, plastic surgery, and transplantation, as well as neonatology, psychiatry, cancer care, intensive care, palliative care, and many other complex medical and surgical interventions. Quaternary care may even involve experimental treatments and procedures.

Tertiary and quaternary care is so specialized that very few institutions in the country are able to offer this level of service. The MUHC is one of the world’s foremost academic health centres and is a recognized leader in patient care, teaching and research. In order to continue with this tradition of excellence, and in alignment with the mandate given to us by the Ministry of Health, the MUHC must focus on providing tertiary and quaternary care to Quebecers, while keeping limited primary and secondary care for teaching purposes. In order to provide this level of care, we are working with the government to organize the redeployment of certain proximity services, considered primary and secondary level care, such as routine tests and the treatment of non-complex conditions, to nearby community hospitals and clinics to provide choice to the patients.

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