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WHEREAS the future of rural health care facilities in the province is uncertain; and
WHEREAS the maintenance of full service hospitals is very important to the viability and sustainability of rural communities; and
WHEREAS many rural Alberta municipalities are finding it difficult to recruit and retain physicians in rural Alberta; and
WHEREAS improved access to health care facilities and health care professionals and high quality services offered by health care facilities have been identified as goals for Alberta Health Services, the Ministry and Health and Wellness and health care professionals;
THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED that the Alberta Association of Municipal Districts and Counties advocate the Province to ensure the rural health care system is maintained, and that all decision-making processes and future intentions be transparent and thus sufficiently acknowledge the interests of rural municipalities and all rural Albertans.
The current reorganization of health services within the Province of Alberta has left many concerns with regards to the state of health care. One of the stated reasons for the centralization of the governance and management of the health care systems was to ensure that all possible efficiencies could be exploited. This, however, has also removed the local involvement in the decision-making process which raises the fear that the interests of rural Alberta may be ignored during the continuing process of reorganization.
The Ministry of Health and Wellness has produced Vision 2020, which identifies the path forward for Health Services in the province. Included in this is a suggestion that it would be beneficial to allow for more people to “age in place.” This means that it would be preferred to allow residents to not have to leave their homes, or communities until a later point in their life. This becomes much more difficult if health care services are being threatened in smaller communities as it reduces the safety net that currently would provide residents with staying in their community as an option.
Currently, Alberta Health Services has put a hiring freeze on physicians while wait times in hospitals continue to lengthen, and it has become increasingly difficult for a person to access a general practitioner. These two issues are clearly interrelated as when a person does not have access to a general practitioner, they are much more likely to end up in a hospital emergency room in the event of needing care. Clearly, as the volume of people attempting to access non-emergency care in the emergency room setting, the times people are required to wait will increase accordingly. At a time when the goals of the province are to reduce wait times, and a staff shortage has been identified, there seems to be little or no rationale for instituting a hiring freeze.
Resoultion 5-09F (Awaiting Vote): THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED that the Alberta Association of Municipal Districts and County’s urge the Province of Alberta and Alberta Health and Wellness to maintain auxiliary extended care beds within the Communities so seniors can feel secure and comfortable and receive proper and compassionate health care, as well as maintaining a connection with their family, friends, and home Communities.
Health and Wellness:
The Government of Alberta is committed to providing rural communities with quality, accessible and sustainable health care, and we are taking steps to ensure Alberta has enough doctors.
Physicians are self-employed and can practice where they wish. The Government of Alberta does not place restrictions on the location of a physician’s practice. However, Alberta Health and Wellness has several programs that encourage physicians to practise in communities where there is a shortage. For example, the ministry’s Rural, Remote Northern Program is a direct response to issues faced by areas of the province where it is difficult to recruit or retain physicians, or where practice costs have significantly increased. In addition, The Alberta Rural Physician Action Plan (RPAP) provides programs to support the recruitment and retention of rural physicians. RPAP provides a 100 per cent tuition bursary for up to 10 students each year, provided the students agree to work in a rural community upon graduation.
Alberta Health Services (AHS) is responsible for the delivery of health care services across Alberta and is developing a rural and community health planning framework. AHS is also undertaking evidence-based planning and working with communities to determine the right mix of services, giving consideration to geography and proximity to services. The AHS Board has established 12 Health Advisory Councils for local communities to provide input to the board and to management regarding health care services in the context of the AHS Strategic Plan. It is essential that rural communities and AHS continue to communicate and work together to stabilize our rural health workforce. For further information on the Community Engagement Portfolio of AHS, please visit www.albertahealthservices.ca/communityengagement.asp
Contrary to the opinion of some, AHS did not have a hiring freeze in rural Alberta for physicians; in fact, AHS identified more than 200 positions for recruitment into rural Alberta. AHS is currently developing service delivery plans to allocate sufficient resources throughout rural Alberta.
As follow up to recommendations outlined in the January 2010 report from the Minister’s Advisory Committee on Health (MACH), the government is developed Becoming the Best:Alberta’s 5-Year Health Action Plan. The plan included developing a set of principles, creating an Alberta Health Act, and ensuring ongoing citizen engagement in the development of other legislation, regulations and policies.
In November 2010, the Government of Alberta unveiled detailed targets to measure the effectiveness and drive further improvments to the health care system.
The Alberta Health Act has been passed by the Legislative Assembly and is awaiting proclamation before it comes into force. The Act requires the Minister to establish a Health Charter and Health Advocate, which were recommendations in Putting People First, a consultation report on the development of an Alberta Health Act that included a draft Health Charter. Further consultation will be required before the Charter is finalized.
Pending further consultation and in light of the foregoing, the AAMDC accepts in principle the response to the intent of this resolution. However, health care continues to be top of mind for Albertans and the AAMDC will monitor progress and participate in consultation to ensure rural perspectives are represented.