Red Deer would be one of the first communities to get a Family Health Clinic to improve access to family doctors, says the NDP if they get elected.
The NDP released its primary health care plan on Wednesday which includes creating clinics that would be 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 10 Family Health Clinics across the province.
“We believe this plan will allow one million more Albertans to be able to see a family doctor, or another member of a family health team, within a day or two close to home,” said NDP leader Rachel Notley during a press conference in Calgary.
She said Albertans will be consulted to determine where the 10 clinics will be located, but Lethbridge, Red Deer and Bow Valley are obvious candidates.
“Access to primary care is out of reach for a huge and unacceptable number of Alberta families. In Lethbridge, in Red Deer, in the entire Bow Valley region, there are no family doctors accepting new patients.”
The family health teams can 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.
NDP health critic David Shepherd said the health teams are what Primary Care Networks were supposed to be, with more allied health workers to support doctors and their patients.
“This proposal is looking to take us back to that original vision of team-based care where doctors are certainly there, and play an important role, but they have wide range of other professionals working collaboratively with them to maximize capacity and maximize access to care,” Shepherd said.
The NDP pointed to Crowfoot Village Family Practice in Calgary as a model for Family Health Clinics. Each doctor at the clinic is able to take on 40 per cent more patients than traditional practices because many of the needs of patients can be looked after by allied healthcare staff and have saved the healthcare system $57.3 million over 10 years.
Existing hospitals and clinics are possible locations for Family Health Clinics, and all new hospital projects would be designed to include spaces for the service going forward.
Shepherd said it should be early enough in the planning process underway to expand Red Deer Regional Hospital Centre to look at the potential of a Family Health Clinic at the site.
He said a number of factors would need to be considered when it comes to clinic locations, including accessibility to residents and connection with other needed health-care services.
Notley said the NDP would grow the health care workforce to improve primary care access by increasing post-secondary training, accelerating the credential process, recruitment, better use of nurse practitioners, breaking down barriers to internationally trained workers, consultation and collaboration with front-line health care providers and improving their work-life balance.
She said if workers can actually go home when their day is supposed to end, and they can plan an event with family without having to worry about it being cancelled by an emergency, it is possible that they will want to work full-time instead of part-time, or return to the profession they left.
She said 125 family physicians enter the system each year and they need to stay in the system.
“They want to be respected. They want to be at the table participating in making the decisions. They want work-life balance. They don’t necessarily want to be working 80 hours a week running their own clinic. They’d prefer to be in a team to be able to focus on what they do best which is providing care to Albertans.”
For more information about the NDP’s primary care plan visit Albertasfuture.ca.