STRATHMORE, Alta. – Premier Alison Redford prescribed a network of family care clinics to cure some of Alberta’s health-care ills Monday, but her pitch didn’t sit well with one of the individuals carefully assembled to be part of her announcement.
Redford said her government would establish 140 family care clinics across Alberta over the next three years. Each would have a team of physicians, nurses, mental-health counsellors, dieticians and other professionals.
The announcement was made in Strathmore, 80 km east of Calgary, in front of the Value Drug Mart owned by Gordon Morck.
“We envision clinics looking very different in different communities,” said Redford.
“Gord is here and is a pharmacist that has the opportunity now to be much more active as a health-care provider in supporting families and providing prescriptions and early diagnosis. What I envision is a clinic where we can have all of these clinics coming together,” she added.
Morck, who says he is a Progressive Conservative supporter, was standing behind the premier as part of the announcement. But he said he has some doubts.
“This is the first I had heard of it,” Morck told The Canadian Press. “It sounds fine, but I think they’re going to have trouble finding doctors for these clinics. Maybe they will be able to, but finding a doctor to work until 7 p.m. on a Sunday night might be tough.”
There’s also the compensation issues, said Morck. Pharmacists have seen a drop in the dispensing fees received from the province and it is increasingly difficult to make ends meet, especially in small towns, he said. Taking on extra duties can’t be done for free.
“They have to make sure there’s money in place. You can’t cut funding and also have more responsibilities too. That’s not fair,” he said. “The first thing that came to my mind when I was listening was, ‘Where are they going to get these people from?”’
Redford said the new clinics will provide an opportunity for those who want to practice medicine outside of the major cities.
“I call on physicians and nurses and (licensed practical nurses) and people who want to go into medicine to become doctors to think about our new approach to this system. To ensure as families we can access the services that we need when we need them and they’re the appropriate services,” Redford said.
“It might mean that we’re going to have fewer doctors sitting in a building that we think of as a conventional medical clinic and more licensed practical nurses who can do very much the same thing as the doctor, but have access to doctors when they need it.”
Morck said he sat down with the premier and expressed his concerns.
“She took my name and phone number and said somebody would get back to me.”
Redford said the new clinics would not cost any additional money and could be incorporated under the current Alberta Health budget.
But the Wildrose said the plan would result in the building of “more new, empty, and understaffed health-care facilities”.
A Wildrose news release said each clinic would cost about $5 million to operate and, with 140 planned, the cost would be around $700 million.
-By Bill Graveland in Strathmore