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Agreement paves the way to better health care

Family doctors have agreed to government’s proposed changes to Primary Care Networks (PCNs) which will ensure Albertans have better access to consistent, comprehensive and seamless care.

Doctors voted on the new PCN governance framework between May 15 to June 13. Alberta’s eligible family physicians voted overwhelmingly to support changes to how PCNs operate, with 88 per cent voting in favour.

“I thank family physicians for endorsing the new PCN governance framework. Improvements to how the networks operate will help us achieve our goal of more community-based carecloser to home, where health care is planned and structured around people and their communities. More consistent and comprehensive team-based care will make life better for all Albertans.”

Sarah Hoffman, Minister of Health

Under the governance framework, a provincial PCN committee will be created along with five PCN zones. Each zone will review the demographics and specific needs of their communities. They will develop a service plan for their area to effectively meet the population health needs of the region.

These service plans will help ensure there is better service co-ordination so PCNs can work with Alberta Health Services (AHS) and patients to meet the unique health needs of people in each region of the province. For example, some communities may need more addiction and mental health services, while others require better integration between seniors’ services so residents have the appropriate supports to live at home longer.

“Today we are witness to a beautiful thing where the ratification of this PCN governance framework brings together physicians, government and PCNs for the good of Albertans. Today we are witness to the courage of our health minister, who is the first in 30 years to listen to the evidence about the importance of improving primary health care. When PCNs partner with AHS and integrate with other community-based services to meet Albertans’ health needs, we will truly build a health care system that is sustainable today and for future generations.”

Dr. Phillip van der Merwe, co-chair of the PCN Physician Leads Executive

The governance changes will lead to:

  • More community-based care for Albertans closer to home
  • Better integration of PCNs, AHS’ community-based services, and other primary health care services
  • Creating a provincial PCN committee, and five PCN zone committees aligned with AHS’ geographic zones to meet specific health needs in each area
  • PCNs working together to plan and provide common programming
  • Standardizing best practices, common guidelines for service delivery, and common monitoring and evaluation
  • Less administrative and corporate service duplication which will lead to more shared services, lower administrative costs, and more resources applied directly to patient care

“We now have the opportunity to increase collaboration and partnerships with Alberta’s PCNs, allowing primary care teams to work more closely together. For patients and families, this means a seamless journey between health providers, a single plan of care through their health-care journey, and increased support for patients with complex needs.”

Dr. Verna Yiu, AHS President and CEO

“The PCN governance framework is unique. It will help build a foundation for decision-making by establishing appropriate processes and making services standard across PCNs. It gives PCNs stability within the primary care system. Through clear roles and responsibilities, all parties will be able to demonstrate more accountability. Patients will have better access to integrated care because the framework will help link physician PCNs with Alberta Health Services resources across the province. Our primary care physician leaders, the Minister and her team and Alberta Health Services are all to be commended for their forward thinking and hard work in bringing this framework to fruition.”

Dr. Padraic Carr, President of the Alberta Medical Association

Quick facts

  • PCNs are groups of doctors working with other health professionals to meet primary health care needs in their communities.
  • Primary health care is the first place people go for health care or wellness advice and programs, treatment of a health issue or injury, or to diagnose and manage a health condition.
  • Alberta has 42 PCNs with more than 3,800 physicians and the full-time-equivalent of over 1,000 other providers.
  • PCNs provide services to close to 3.6 million Albertans.
  • PCNs are the most common model of team-based primary health care delivery in Alberta, with approximately 80 per cent of primary care physicians registered in a PCN.
  • The PCN governance framework is a provision of the Amending Agreement between Alberta Health and the Alberta Medical Association.
  • The Auditor General’s 2012 report and his recent report, Better Healthcare for Albertans, included recommendations and insight into Alberta’s Primary Care Networks.

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