The Alberta Medical Association, which represents the province’s doctors, is calling on the provincial government to commit to a new funding model when it hands down its budget later this month.

In a conversation with Shootin’ the Breeze, AMA president Dr. Paul Parks said it’s something the current government needs to take seriously.

“The biggest thing is going to be whether it’s going to be contained in the document versus an open and strong commitment that’s attached to the document,” said Parks.

“We really, absolutely need to see a firm commitment to a movement, to a new funding model for family medicine.”

In a January statement, the AMA said 91 per cent of family doctors in Alberta were concerned over the continued financial viability of their practices. One in five added they wouldn’t last more than six months.

“We absolutely have to gain the Alberta Advantage back and be able to be competitive with Prairie provinces, and what that would entail is the new Physician Comprehensive Care Model that we have given to the [health] minister.”

Parks said the concept of the PCCM is very similar to a program started a year ago in British Columbia, known there as the Longitudinal Family Physician Payment Model.

Designed by two organizations, B.C. Family Doctors and Doctors of B.C., it became an alternative to the fee-for-service model, one Alberta doctors are currently under.

“It’s based on British Columbia’s LFP model with some tweaks from Manitoba’s model and Nova Scotia’s model,” Parks said.

In B.C., the model’s mandate includes recognizing the complexity of longitudinal care and values the time spent with patients.

Longitudinal, by definition, relates to length.

Most physicians in our province, however, feel that the current system doesn’t allow for a proper amount of time to be spent with the patient. The hope is that a new structure will see a return to what some characterize as cradle-to-grave comprehensive care.

“That’s what we need the minister and the premier to lock down and commit to in this budget,” Parks emphasized.

In the interim, the AMA has been told it will receive $200 million combined in federal funding for this and next year — the first half expected by April 1.

“All of that is directly earmarked for stabilization of the practices we have. What that means is specifically locking it down to retain the family physicians we have right now and actually make it so they can survive and be viable to keep their leases and keep their lights on,” Parks elaborated.

“The problem that we’re facing right now is if we don’t shore up the clinics, if we don’t give them some stabilization funding so they can pay their staff and their leases, many are going to leave. They’re either going to leave Alberta to go to B.C. or Saskatchewan, all of whom have longitudinal care models, or they’ll stay in Alberta but stop doing comprehensive cradle-to-grave-type care.”

“It’s something we can’t afford,” Parks added, alluding to results of one study concluding that close to 800,000 Albertans currently don’t have a family physician.

Premier Danielle Smith’s UCP government is scheduled to table its 2024-25 budget on Feb. 29.

By Dave Lueneberg, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Original Published on Feb 26, 2024 at 10:29

This item reprinted with permission from   Shootin' the Breeze   Pincher Creek, Alberta

Comments are Welcome - Use the 'Join the Discussion' above any replies, or 'TheRegional / Chat' below replies. Both links take you to the same place. You will be asked to become a registered user if you are not one already - Posts are moderated