By Al Beeber
Southern Alberta Newspapers
The president of the Alberta Medical Association says the restructuring of the province’s health services needs to be done responsibly.
Paul Parks, an emergency room physician in Medicine Hat, said the restructuring needs to be done carefully to ensure it doesn’t adversely impact patient care or lead to longer wait times and less access to medical care.
“For some time, there have been concerns about the effectiveness and quality of health care delivery in Alberta. We have heard this from members, who have told us that they want government to address suboptimal health care outcomes. We also know that many members support more authentic local decision-making in the health care system,” said Parks in a emailed statement.
The restructuring will create four Crown corporations with responsibility for different aspects of health care in Alberta.
“As these new functional organizations are being established, our primary concern is continuity of care for the people of Alberta. We must make sure that patients can navigate this new system seamlessly, without disruptions,” said the AMA president.
Parks says the medical association has a role to play in the process, which media were told in a press conference Nov. 8, will take two years.
In the meantime, the government says there will be no disruptions to care for Albertans as the process goes ahead.
“Our health care system is already in a fragile state. The consistent message I have been hearing from physicians across Alberta is that any changes made in our system must involve input from experts on the front lines – the physicians and allied health care workers who are dedicated to patient care. While it is reassuring to see that the government is committed to consultation, we will be working diligently to make sure they get and heed our input,” said Parks.
Parks says the AMA will be seeking answers to various questions including how will doctors who work in more than one of the four separate entities be compensated. The AMA also wants to know if physicians will have privileges in more than one.
He said the association needs clarification and reassurance that the new government model doesn’t involve operational controls over clinics.
“The AMA will be working with members to ensure family physicians and rural generalists are heard and their input respected,” he said.
In addition to the restructuring, the province announced the appointment of a new seven-member board to “refocus” AHS.
“As part of its renewed mandate, AHS will continue its work to improve wait times for surgeries and wait times in emergency rooms and to shorten response times for emergency medical services,” said the Health Minister Adriana LaGrange in a press release.
Under the restructuring, AHS has a mandate to focus on acute care. Presently, it oversees all aspects of health care in the province.
Under the new model, there will be four separate organizations with specialized areas of focus including primary care, acute care, continuing care and mental health and addictions. The latter will be under the jurisdiction of the Minister of Mental Health and Addiction while the other three fall under the umbrella of the Minister of Health.
The province says when or how patients access the new system won’t change.