The Town of Sylvan Lake has been lobbying the provincial government for the better part of twenty years, according to local doctors, eight of them in a very organized, community-driven fashion. The seven urgent care centres in our province may be best described as bridging the gap between a walk-in clinic and the ER. There are none anywhere in Central Alberta, and the community says (and I completely agree) that the resort community of Sylvan Lake, with over one million visitors per year, is the perfect place for such a facility.

Just before the election call, Health Minister Fred Horne announced that the PC government would be opening 140 new Family Care Clinics in Red Deer. It’s a little confusing, to be sure. There are already Primary Care Networks (PCN), which offer physician-led multidisciplinary health care. It appears that Family Care Clinics (FCC) would offer multidisciplinary care that would not necessarily be physician-led; more likely another health practitioner such as an RN. Though FCCs would have extended hours and offer wrap-around services, there is much confusion. If health care wasn’t already complicated and convoluted enough, it could potentially become more so in coming  days, depending of course, on the election outcomes.

The Health Quality Council strongly expressed a need for health care reform to take place in a transparent fashion with significant consultation, particularly with physicians. That has not happened. And now, whether by design or default the hastily formulated FCC plan is already generating casualties and waste.

Sylvan Lake received a letter from Horne a few weeks ago, indicating that the Town could definitely be chosen for a family care clinic, apparently as an answer of sorts to the call for urgent care. Not exactly what was ordered, but perhaps a workable compromise? If it means more care, additional services and takes the pressure off of the Red Deer Hospital ER, it could be the solution, right? Uh, not likely, as it turns out. In Calgary, a Family Care Centre was recently opened. Pretty much immediately, the Primary Care Network located in the same building was closed, due to a “duplication of services”.

Is there anyone else for whom this situation does not pass the sniff test? Why in the world would we want to waste so much money essentially reinventing the wheel, without adding any additional care options? The only answer I can come up with is that it’s a cheaper option. It costs less to receive RN care than doctor care.

I’m all for taking the pressure off of our doctors and exploring ways to get good care to people by using RNs, but we need that kind of option as an addition to existing services, not as a replacement. Will the PCN be closed in Sylvan if/when a FCC opens? Well, that won’t help at all. And how much will it cost to simply shuffle staff and services out of PCN into FCC? Isn’t that a colossal waste? Is the plan to waste a bunch of money in order to save money eventually but not provide any additional care?

I’ve spoken with several people around the province today who are asking these same questions. Sylvan Lake and central Alberta do not need a shell game with our health care services. We need someone to listen to us and understand that the people living in the community know best what is needed. We need Urgent Care.