BOSTON – Boston residents having trouble finding a doctor are now only one phone call away.

The Mayor’s Health Line starts offering a new, multilingual service today that puts callers in touch with family doctors and other primary care providers who are accepting new patients. This service is free and confidential.

Residents can call 617-534-5050 or 1-800-847-0710 between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. Monday through Friday to connect to the service, operated by the Boston Public Health Commission.

Mayor Thomas M. Menino announced plans for the referral line in July after accepting the recommendations of a task force on improving access to primary care in Boston; the panel was led by Dr. Paula Johnson, chairperson of the Boston Public Health Commission’s board.

«This is all about ensuring that Boston residents have access to qualified health care providers,» Mayor Menino said. «With all of the health care facilities we have in Boston, residents shouldn’t have to go to a hospital emergency room for routine medical care.»

Demand for primary care has increased as a result of the state’s landmark health care reform law, which has added 439,000 people, many of them Boston residents, to the rolls of the insured. One consequence has been growing strain on the primary care system.

The referral service will keep track of open slots for new patients at doctors’ offices, hospitals, and community health centers and monitor wait times for appointments. Consumers can also call to report difficulties obtaining primary care.

«This service is a definite step in the right direction toward helping Boston residents connect with primary care providers in this time of shortage,» Dr. Johnson said. «I know that this will be an important service to residents, especially those who are newly insured.»

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