CALGARY – Alberta’s Opposition NDP is promising more access to a family doctor by creating health teams.
NDP Leader Rachel Notley says if her party forms government after the spring election, its goal would be for a million or more Albertans to be able to see their family doctor within a day or two near where they live.
Notley says the government would create family health teams, which include a doctor working alongside related specialists such as mental health therapists, dietitians, physiotherapists, licensed practical nurses and midwives.
The plan would be for patients to see some of these related specialists during some visits, allowing the physician more time to see more patients and spend less time on paperwork.
There would be a transition fund to immediately begin hiring 1,500 non-physician team members into existing clinics, while work continues to open 10 family health clinics.
Both the NDP and the United Conservative Party government are working on ways to end family physician shortages, particularly outside major urban centres, which are causing domino effects of jammed hospital emergency wards.
Notley says an NDP government would recruit the necessary staff by luring back health professionals who may have quit or retired but may be willing to return to practices that promise more stable hours, a reduced workload and less red tape.
“When you walk into a family health clinic, you will have immediate access to a range of primary-care professionals who will help you respond to a problem, manage a chronic condition and generally support you in maintaining good physical and mental health,” Notley told reporters Wednesday in Calgary.
“This means less waiting, less running around to referrals, and less repeating of your story to one new person after another.”
Notley noted similar programs are already running successfully in two clinics, one in Calgary and the other in Taber in southern Alberta.
Alberta Health spokesman Scott Johnston said the government has a number of recruiting plans to ease the physician shortage.
He said the government is boosting recruitment of internationally trained doctors and nurses while adding bridging spaces and a new bursary to help cover costs for internationally educated nurses.
There will be 2,500 new seats in training programs for health-care professionals and expansions are planned to Alberta’s two medical schools with satellite programs to train more physicians for rural practice.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 15, 2023