Family Care Clinic for Sylvan good news, but details remain uncertain

Sylvan Lake is one of 24 communities scheduled to benefit from better access to primary health care as the provincial government announced

Sylvan Lake is one of 24 communities scheduled to benefit from better access to primary health care as the provincial government announced a new wave of Family Care Clinics (FCC), Tuesday. But what that access will be remains to be defined.

“Today’s announcement is very good news for Sylvan Lake and area,” said Mayor Susan Samson who’s also chairperson of the Urgent Care Task Force which has been lobbying for after-hours facilities in Sylvan.

“We look forward to examining the details and planning our future with the province, Alberta Health and Central Zone 5 Alberta Health Service,” said Samson.

She indicated in a release that family care clinics “are not cookie cutter solutions and we anticipate that any new medical services will be customized to meet the needs of Sylvan Lake and area by providing non-life threatening medical services including lab and x-ray, seven days a week with extended hours.”

However, she said “the Urgent Care Committee needs to know more information to determine how the Family Care Clinic will meet the needs of our area including flexibility of the model and provision of adequate funding”.

Samson, on behalf of the committee, thanked Premier Alison Redford and Health Minister Fred Horne “for listening and understanding the need to provide additional medical services for Sylvan Lake and area. With the rapidly growing population in our area, it is important to provide health services where the people are located.”

Redford in a government news release, said, “we are working with physicians and other health care providers on how primary care evolves in the future, and part of that work is moving forward with Family Care Clinics.”

The release stated the government “will work with leaders and health providers in the 24 communities over the coming months to develop plans for each FCC. The stand-alone clinics will be staffed with a team of health providers brought together to meet the unique health and social needs of the community they serve.”

FCCs provide non-emergency primary health care services such as diagnosis and treatment of illness, screening, immunization, health promotion, chronic disease prevention and management, and links to other health and community agencies, continued the release. “Each is expected to provide extended hours of service, same-day appointments and access to the most appropriate member of the care team.”

These clinics are also supposed to complement the services provided by Primary Care Networks (PCNs) of privately owned physician offices that receive supplementary funding to hire other health professionals to help deliver enhanced services to their patients.

Dr. Chris Eagle, Alberta Health Services president and CEO, said, “FCCs are strengthening primary health care in Alberta. Strong primary care will enhance the health of the population, and improve our entire health-care system. By helping more Albertans with disease and injury prevention, chronic disease management, mental health concerns, and aging, we support wellness as well as treat illness, and that means better health for everyone.”

Innisfail-Sylvan Lake MLA Kerry Towle said she’s “glad that after much hard work with constituents, we are now closer to finding a solution for the people of Sylvan Lake”.

“Today’s announcement has the potential to be very positive as long as the government works constructively with physicians in the communities and doesn’t move to eliminate the current PCNs that are in place,” Towle continued.

“We hope the government will take the right steps to work with the health experts on the ground in these communities, including physicians, to improve primary care across the province. We need a health care system that strives to put the needs of patients first, and we are cautiously optimistic that today’s announcement will help bring us one step closer to that vision.”

Alberta Liberal Leader Raj Sherman also expressed concern that important questions are left unanswered for Albertans.

“My concern … is that the Redford Conservatives will cannibalize other parts of the health care system to staff and fund these proposed FCCs. Without adequate funding for frontline staff, cuts will be needed to make these FCCs happen.”

He portrayed the announcement as “feel-good” indicating “that’s all it is until Alison Redford engages in meaningful and respectful consultation with doctors and other health care workers”.

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