Primary Care Network funding falling short

Funding to Primary Care Networks in Alberta is still falling short despite a $12-per-patient increase in Alberta doctors’ new contract, says the chairman with Red Deer Primary Care Network.

Funding to Primary Care Networks in Alberta is still falling short despite a $12-per-patient increase in Alberta doctors’ new contract, says the chairman with Red Deer Primary Care Network.

The community networks of family physicians who lead multi-professional health teams to provide comprehensive care and increased services for chronic disease, had been receiving $50 per patient.

“At present on average, it’s costing a PCN $70 to $75 per patient to run. That’s obviously going to fall short of what the government is going to give us even with the latest increase,” said Dr. Peter Bouch on Monday.

The province announced an agreement in principle with the Alberta Medical Association, effective April 1, 2011, and runs through 2012-13, with a possible extension for 2013-14.

Bouch said primary care networks have been using up their surpluses and in three years, Red Deer Primary Care Network will have to look at reducing patient services.

“If the budget stays the same, we will have to seriously think about what to cut. It’s going to affect patient care.”

The additional $12 is the first increase in per-patient funding for primary care networks. Red Deer’s network started in 2006.

The Red Deer network has about 75 family physicians and has helped patients connect faster to mental health and diabetic services and runs a weight-loss lifestyle program.

Last week, the province announced three family care clinics pilot programs in Calgary, Edmonton and Slave Lake to increase access to primary health care and treatment for less serious health issues like simple fractures and stitching wounds.

Family care clinics will offer extended hours and will operate with more nurse practitioners and fewer doctors.

Bouch said existing primary care networks could have been the expanded instead.

“These fall right in the realm of PCNs. We could open something that would be just as good because we’ve really got a lot of the infrastructure up and going.

“To go and start trying to reinvent the wheel I think is very costly.”

Premier Alison Redford promised the clinics when she ran for the Tory leadership last year.

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