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Primary care

Edmonton area launches primary care network

EDMONTON – A group of 59 south Edmonton physicians, in cooperation with Capital Health, the Alberta Medical Association and Alberta Health and Wellness, will mark a milestone in primary care reform by launching the first of the province’s Primary Care Networks (PCN) – a group called the Southside PCN.

Primary Care Networks will be key to improving delivery of primary care services in Alberta, the government said. Primary care is typically the first point of contact with the health system. The next PCN to launch in Capital Health will be in WestView, involving family physicians in Stony Plain, Spruce Grove and Parkland County.

Dr. Jennine Wismark, physician lead for the Southside PCN, which involves more than 81,000 patients, is excited about the launch. “It was a very challenging planning process but it was extremely gratifying to work with Capital Health to develop better ways to coordinate care for our patients,” she says. The plan features enhanced coordination of care between community family physicians and other areas such as hospitals, mental health, home care and geriatric care. This innovative tripartite agreement –- a first in Canadian health care –- will pave the way for family physicians to participate even more actively in primary healthcare reform.

“These initiatives represent a new level of collaboration between family physicians and health regions,” says Sheila Weatherill, Capital Health president and CEO. “They mark another step toward improving access to medical care, managing chronic disease and improving coordination of services.”

“This is a made-in-Alberta approach that provides local flexibility for health regions and family physicians to meet patients’ needs,” said Hon. Iris Evans, Minister of Health and Wellness. “It allows for providing basic health services in a new way, while building on the strengths of the current health system.”

Each Primary Care Network will provide the following services:

• Assured access to after hours care;

• Ambulatory care (basic walk-in health services);

• Care of complex health problems and follow-up (e.g., heart conditions, etc.);

• Mental health care (psychological counselling);

• Screening and prevention of chronic diseases (e.g., osteoporosis, diabetes,* etc.);

• Family planning and pregnancy counselling;

• Care for healthy children;

• Obstetrics (care during pregnancy and delivering babies);

• Palliative care (care for the terminally ill);

• Geriatric care (care for the elderly);

• Care for chronically ill patients;

• Minor surgery;

• Minor emergency care (e.g., stitches);

• Primary care for patients in hospitals and long-term care facilities;

• Rehabilitative care;

• Information management (ensuring patient privacy); and

• Population health (public health, community health and health promotion* efforts).

Primary Care Networks will also link to other areas of the healthcare system, including home care, long-term and specialist care as well as emergency room services, public health, mental health, laboratory services and diagnostic imaging (X-ray, ultrasound, etc.).

While Capital Health is launching the province’s first PCN, many Primary Care Networks across the province are now finalizing their plans.