March 22 2014
Open Letter regarding Family Care Clinics
In April 2012 the first three Family Care Clinics opened in Edmonton, Calgary and Slave Lake. The aim of these clinics is to reduce non-urgent visits to the emergency department and to deliver greater and timelier access to care through an interdisciplinary team. Alberta Health Services has announced these clinics are a success and plans to open dozens more across the province.
Let us share our Slave Lake story. We hope it opens your eyes to the problems an FCC could create for your community. Before the Slave Lake wildfires, we had 13 doctors practicing in two clinics. Today our 11,000 people have one option- the Family Care Clinic, staffed with 4 doctors and 7 nurse practitioners. 4 longtime doctors resigned and although they still live here, they practice elsewhere. AHS has been unable to recruit new physicians. Wait times at the clinic, where walk-ins are encouraged, can be up to five hours and it is not unheard of to have twenty people ahead of you in line. Now many residents drive from 100 to 500 km roundtrip for basic health care. All first time and high risk moms travel 200 km or more to deliver their babies. Seniors no longer have a family doctor. Referrals for specialists are becoming more difficult to schedule. Since patients are directed to the most “relevant” or next available primary health practitioner (a nurse practitioner, doctor or chronic care nurse), the same patient may see several different people in the course of a week or two, leading to lapses in continuity of care with potentially life-threatening consequences.
Ask your municipal government, Alberta Health Services Clinical Director, MLA and local Health Advisory Council the following questions:
· Are your local doctors on board with the FCC concept? If they are unable to work with the FCC model, you will lose them- and there are very few doctors available to replace them.
· Will you have a choice in your medical care or will the FCC be your only option?
· Will you continue to have your own family doctor or will you be assigned to the first available practitioner?
· Who will determine who the “most appropriate” person is to address your needs? (In our case, it appears to be a receptionist.)
· Who is ultimately responsible for continuity of care?
· Who will advocate for your needs if a specialist is required?
· Who is responsible for follow-up care?
· Who will sit on your local advisory committee and what is its mandate?