For medical advice, consult doctors

The doctors of the Red Deer Department of Family Practice have expressed their concerns about statements in the April 3 edition of the Advocate that licensed practical nurses (LPNs) would staff 140 proposed Family Care Clinics.

The doctors of the Red Deer Department of Family Practice have expressed their concerns about statements in the April 3 edition of the Advocate that licensed practical nurses (LPNs) would staff 140 proposed Family Care Clinics.

Red Deer physicians take exception to Premier Redford’s statements that LPNs could do many of their functions as doctors and that a doctor could be consulted when necessary.

The doctors were dismayed that their years of training and experience could be dismissed so lightly, and that the premier would be so uninformed as to the scope and training of LPNs.

The Department of Family Practice would like to correct the record about the role of licensed practical nurses (LPNs), and nurse practitioners in Alberta. Both are highly valued for their roles within the health-care system, but are not the same. LPNs have two years of training and are not educated in the fields of diagnosis and treatment, while nurse practitioners have post-graduate training and have a scope of practice that allows for diagnosis, treatment and prescribing on a limited basis.

Perhaps Premier Redford meant to refer to nurse practitioners and misused the terms. The more than 60 doctors of the Department of Family Practice provide 24/7 health care to members of the public needing appropriate obstetrical, paediatric and medical care in the Red Deer hospital. Through their hospital service and office work, they provide “cradle to grave” care to the people of Red Deer and Sylvan Lake.

Most of the members belong to the existing Red Deer and Sylvan Lake Primary Care Networks.

In the PCNs, the doctors already work in collaborative teams of medical, nursing and mental health professionals to provide an expanded scope of care for their patients. A nurse practitioner has an active role in the Red Deer PCN at their downtown street clinic.

When the first three Family Care Clinics were proposed by Premier Redford, the clinics were to have an evaluation after they had been in operation. These clinics have barely had their doors open and now the premier has made an election promise of 140 more clinics without any evaluation process. This has managed to upset and antagonize a good portion of the medical community, which she was hoping to involve in this venture.

The physicians of Red Deer and Sylvan Lake, who have privately financed their own clinics, are wondering about the wisdom of having a government-operated and financed clinic duplicating services just down the street. Primary Care Networks already provide service to almost three million Albertans and Premier Redford has previously stated that she is in support of Primary Care Networks.

Rather than promising 137 more clinics, a more collaborative and inclusive way of working towards improving the health of Albertans should be considered.

Wayne Church

Head of Department of Family Practice

Red Deer Hospital

Member of Red Deer PCN