The hard work and dedication of the Eckville and Area Wellness Coalition (EAWC) and the town of Eckville have finally paid off. Alberta Health Services (AHS) and the Ministry of Health recently approved Wolf Creek Primary Care Network (WCPCN) to hire a nurse practitioner for the community.
According to AHS, a nurse practitioner is a registered nurse with a graduate degree and advanced knowledge and skills. A nurse practitioner is trained to assess, diagnose, treat, order diagnostic tests, prescribe medications, make referrals to specialists and manage overall care for patients. Nurse practitioners often work closely with physicians and other health professions as part of a team and some work independently and manage their own clinics.
A nurse practitioner holds a masters degree, and some hold a doctorate, they have at least 4,500 hours of clinical registered nursing practice and are registered with the College of Registered Nurses of Alberta – Nurse Practitioners.
The new nurse practitioner in town will work out of the Eckville Community Health Centre, said Colleen Ebden, mayor for the town.
“Everybody is just ecstatic about this,” said Ebden. “It will mean so much. There hasn’t been a doctor in Eckville for 10 years. I don’t think the nurse practitioner will have a problem filling up their days.”
“I believe this is going to be quite huge for Eckville and area,” said Karin Engen, chair of the EAWC. “There is so much value in what we’ve been able to achieve here.”
The EAWC originally established a health resources committee to try and bring a doctor to the community. But in 2019, the committee found out the province had changed the scope of duties for a nurse practitioner.
“We found that many rural communities, such as ourselves, are enjoying working with a nurse practitioner,” Engen explained. “The communities and the counties worked together.”
The committee worked with Thorhild and Thorhild County, Wabamun and Parkland County, Warburg and Thorsby and Leduc County, all of which worked to bring a nurse practitioner to the community.
In the early summer, the EAWC made a presentation to Lacombe County for support to bring a nurse practitioner to the community, but the request was denied.
“We made the decision not to support their request,” said Lacombe County Reeve Barb Shepherd. “We felt the nurse practitioner position was an AHS responsibility and when you consider that Lacombe County has several municipalities, we could see at some point in the future that other municipalities might come forward as well. In view of our opinion that it was an AHS responsibility, we opted not to support it.”
However, Shepherd was happy to hear a nurse practitioner had been approved.
“Make no mistake, it’s not that we were opposed,” said Shepherd. “We could see why Eckville town council was supportive of it. Their citizens have a great facility there that could accommodate a nurse practitioner nicely, we just felt the responsibility belonged to AHS.”
While the WCPCN will hire the nurse practitioner, it will be up to the town to cover the annual operating cost of a medical records clerk and the required medical records software. The clinic will also need to be equipped.
According to a recent press release from the town of Eckville, the town reached out to local businesses for support and both Cenovus and BTG Energy stepped up to the plate with donations.
“The newly created Eckville Medical Committee, with representation from Eckville and area residents, will be working on other fundraising initiatives,” read the press release.
“We hope that with the nurse practitioner coming, AHS will agree to re-open our lab and maybe even our x-ray department,” said Ebden, adding that these services closed about six years ago.