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Eckville seeks Lacombe County help to fund a nurse practitioner

Nurse practitioners can diagnose, treat and prescribe medications
Eckville is hoping to get funding to hire a nursing practitioner to help serve the community. (File photo from Black Press News Services)

Town of Eckville is seeking financial help from Lacombe County to recruit a nurse practitioner to meet local health needs.

Alberta Health has a grant program that provides $125,000 to primary care networks to cover the salary and benefits of a nurse practitioner for three years.

To be eligible, communities must be able to to cover the costs of a medical office assistant, electronic medical records system and other overhead costs. Eckville estimates support costs will be $67,000 per year.

Eckville plans to spend $30,000 per year to support the nurse. It was proposed that Lacombe County could match that or provide $10,000 a year. Red Deer and Clearwater counties and Bentley are also expected to be approached.

Nursing practitioners must ave at least 4,500 hours of clinical registered nursing practise, have graduate degrees and advanced knowledge and skills.

They are trained to assess, diagnose, treat, order diagnostic tests, prescribe medications make referrals to specialists and manager overall care.

Some county councillors questioned whether the municipality should get involved in funding health care, a provincial responsibility.

“This is cross-jurisdictional in my mind,” said Coun. John Ireland, who suggested it was a “slippery slope” that could lead to additional health-related expenses being passed on to municipalities.

Ireland said he could support providing capital funding for a building or something similar but did not want the county to get involved in operational funding.

Other councillors said if they helped fund the Eckville nurse other communities may also come looking for similar support.

Council directed administration to prepare a report on Eckville’s request and its implications to bring back to a future meeting.

The Eckville program would be overseen by Wolf Creek Primary Care Network. A number of central Alberta communities have nurse practitioners, including Delburne, Sylvan Lake and Ponoka.

Nurses are also expected to be in place soon to provide basic care in Innisfail and Penhold, Samson First Nation at Maskwacis, and possibly Blackfalds.

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