A Red Deer doctor sees potential in the NDP’s idea to set up 1o Family Health Clinics around the province to improve access to primary care, but finding the staff and setting up the clinics would be difficult.
“It think it’s quite raw. It’s a good idea on paper, but when you come down to the logistics it could be quite tricky,” said family physician Peter Bouch with the Red Deer Primary Care Network (PCN).
On Wednesday the NDP released its primary health care plan which includes creating Family Health Clinics staffed with doctors and a team of health professionals to provide better support for early treatment and preventative care.
The plan calls for a transition fund to immediately begin hiring 1,500 non-physician team members to fortify existing clinics. The aim is to get those workers in place by the end of 2024, while working to open the Family Health Clinics across the province.
The family health teams could include multiple family doctors as well as nurse practitioners, registered and licensed practical nurses, mental health therapists, pharmacists, social workers, dietitians, community paramedics, community health navigators, physiotherapists, midwives, speech language therapists, and others.
The NDP said Red Deer, where none of the PCN’s family doctors are taking new patients and retirement is on the horizon for a few of the physicians, would be one of the first communities to get a Family Health Clinic.
Bouch said the Red Deer PCN has been connecting allied health workers with patients in limited space at doctor’s offices for years, and the city doesn’t have extra doctors or health care workers to staff a family health team at a new clinic.
The NDP say Crowfoot Village Family Practice in Calgary is a model for a successful Family Health Clinic, where doctors are able to see more patients with the help of health workers and saves the health system money.
“It’s a great idea. It does keep people out of emergency rooms and going to hospital,” said the Red Deer doctor about the Calgary clinic, adding the model is expensive and can’t be set up overnight.
His advice would be for government to work with PCNs, which haven’t had a raise in about 15 years, and fund them with stipulations to achieve certain results.
“(Government) needs to collaborate with the primary networks to come up with some sort of solution. They have been around for a while. The physicians do know the community where they work in so that would be the ideal group of people to connect with,” Bouch said.
PCNs were first introduced in Alberta in 2003.
Last September the UCP government established three panels to figure out ways to improve the healthcare system in both the short term and over the next five to 10 years.
A final report with a recommended strategy to modernize Alberta’s primary health care system will be finalized in spring 2023.
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