Strengthening health care: Improving access for all
Alberta’s government is stabilizing and strengthening primary health care across the province so that everyone can access care when and where they need it.
Primary health care is the first point of contact Albertans have with the health care system, and includes health professionals such as family doctors, nurse practitioners and pharmacists.
Last fall, health care leaders, Indigenous partners and experts from across Canada and around the world came together to form advisory panels as part of the Modernizing Alberta’s Primary Health Care System (MAPS) initiative. The panels identified immediate, medium- and long-term improvements to strengthen Alberta’s primary health care system.
Alberta’s government will begin moving forward on the recommendations in the final report to improve access to primary health care for all Albertans. The recommendations will be implemented through a phased approach, with several moving forward immediately, followed by medium- and longer-term improvements that will enhance community-based primary health care across Alberta.
“Today marks an important step in the work I am undertaking to enhance primary care as the foundation of our health care system. The Modernizing Alberta’s Primary Health Care System (MAPS) reports clearly identify the challenges our system is facing, and their release signals this government’s commitment to take immediate and ongoing action to support and stabilize primary health care in our province. I look forward to the ongoing work of implementing needed changes with our health care partners and providers.”
Several immediate actions are being taken, all of which are consistent with recommendations from the panels. These actions are critical to ensuring Albertans have better access to health care when and where they need it. Alberta Health continues to work toward implementing recommendations over the medium and long term.
“The MAPS recommendations represent a huge leap forward for our primary health system – strengthening and clarifying governance, community involvement, and recognizing the importance of integrated team-based care that allows Albertans to access primary care from the most appropriate team member at the right time, in the right place. This is how we can ensure equitable access to care across our province.”
Strengthening primary health care
Alberta’s government is acting immediately on recommendations to improve primary health care and increase Albertans’ access to the medical care they need, including:
- Creating a primary health care division within Alberta Health.
- Allocating $57 million over three years to provide family doctors and nurse practitioners with support to help manage their increasing number of patients. Each provider has the potential to receive up to $10,000 annually.
- Working with the Alberta Medical Association to create a task force to recommend a new payment model for family physicians that encourages comprehensive primary care – where a patient has a regular family doctor who they develop a long-term relationship with and who works with them to ensure all their health care needs are met.
- Developing a memorandum of understanding with the Alberta Medical Association to collaborate on a transition to a new physician compensation model, modernize primary care governance and enable family doctors to spend more time with patients and less time on paperwork and immediately stabilize primary care.
- Expanding online mental health services, allowing doctors to bill for virtual mental health checks and therapy, and compensating them for extra time spent with patients virtually.
- Ensuring doctors get paid if patients can’t prove insurance coverage, reducing administrative burden. This is known as “good faith” claims.
- Introducing a payment system that will support nurse practitioners to open their own clinics, take on patients and offer services based on their scope of practice, training and expertise. Nurse practitioners have completed graduate studies ensuring that they are properly trained to examine patients, provide diagnoses and prescribe medication.
“We know that a strong primary health care system is foundational for better health care for Albertans, and that starts with access to a family physician and a team of dedicated providers. Primary care requires dedicated planning, resourcing and coordination. We are pleased to join the task force and believe continued collaboration and immediate action will bring us closer to our collective vision.”
“The Nurse Practitioner Association of Alberta is elated to see the newly released MAPs report, which provides direction for primary care reform and includes the full integration of nurse practitioners. The Government of Alberta is taking a significant and essential step in improving access to primary care for Albertans. This announcement is a win-win for Albertans and nurse practitioners, as it recognizes the valuable contributions of NPs delivering high-quality care for Albertans and their ability to decrease the stress on the health care system. We are excited about the future of primary care in Alberta.”
“These actions are welcome news for rural Alberta. Ensuring Albertans have access to health care professionals when and where they need it is essential. This work will help to solve some of the unique challenges for rural Albertans by encouraging health professions to practise in rural parts of the province.”
Strengthening Indigenous health care
Indigenous Peoples face many barriers to access appropriate health care. To support better health outcomes, the government will build more meaningful connections with Indigenous leaders and communities to identify improvements that reflect the unique nature of their communities. Immediate actions include:
- Creating an Indigenous health division within Alberta Health.
- Creating a $20-million fund for Indigenous communities to design and deliver innovative primary health care services and projects.
- Creating an Indigenous patient complaints investigator and Elders roster to investigate incidences of racism during the delivery of health care and provide culturally safe support to Indigenous patients throughout the patient complaint process.
- Investing in a community-based Indigenous patient navigator program to support Indigenous peoples throughout their health care journey.
“It is unacceptable that Indigenous Peoples continue to face so many barriers when accessing primary health care. It is crucial that all First Nations, Métis and Inuit peoples have equitable access to community-based primary health care that is culturally safe, respects their unique needs and is free of racism. These immediate actions will help us achieve that goal.”
“The panel’s recommendations provide a clear and stable pathway to create a safe, culturally appropriate primary health care system that includes Indigenous people as partners and leaders at every stage of the development, governance and delivery of health care services. The best solutions exist within our respective communities, tailored for our unique needs and priorities. The commitments made today are an important first step toward improving health equity for Indigenous Peoples, regardless of where they live in Alberta.”
- Advisory panels were established through MAPS in fall 2022 to identify primary health care improvements in the short term and over the next 10 years.
- Final reports from the panels were submitted in spring 2023.
- The strategic advisory panel final report contains 11 recommendations to refocus the system around primary health care with an emphasis on:
- access to team-based care
- integration between primary health care and community care
- a foundation of a coordinated and accountable primary health care system
- The Indigenous advisory panel final report contains 22 recommendations under five themes:
- improve health equity for Indigenous Peoples
- address Indigenous racism in health care
- build culturally safer primary health care and an Indigenous workforce
- create system innovation and support community capacity
- Indigenous ownership, stewardship, design and delivery of health care services
- Budget 2023 allocated $125 million over three years to implement recommendations from MAPS.
- The next step will be to further engage with health care partners, including Indigenous communities, to implement these immediate priorities and the broader MAPS recommendations.
Taking wildfire operations to new heights
Drone and helicopter testing being performed by Alberta Wildfire personnel. Photo Credit: Alberta Wildfire
Budget 2024 enables Alberta to make use of leading-edge technologies to prevent and respond to wildfires.
As Alberta heads into wildfire season, many areas of the province are experiencing heightened wildfire risk. Alberta’s government continues to prioritize new technologies and tactics that will enhance front-line response and suppression efforts.
Budget 2024 will invest an additional $151 million over the next three years for wildfire preparedness, prevention, response and mitigation. This additional funding will enhance wildland firefighting capacity with increased wildfire resources such as personnel, aircraft, drones, artificial intelligence (AI) and night-vision technology.
“Alberta’s government is well prepared for the 2024 wildfire season. We have emerging technologies that will enable us to better protect forests and communities while continuing to prioritize proactive measures that build wildfire resilience throughout the province.”
Aerial operations are integral to firefighting efforts and increased funding will enable the province to add two additional long-term helicopter contracts, two new air tanker contracts and additional drones for aerial wildfire surveillance. Budget 2024 will also support the renewal of 130 helicopter contracts by April 1.
“We live in a time where we have access to incredible technologies and last year, we recognized some great successes from various firefighting technology pilot programs. I can say with confidence that the additional night-vision equipped helicopters and drones will make a big difference in our wildfire mitigation and response efforts this year.”
Alberta Wildfire will continue to explore, research and test new developments in wildfire prevention, mitigation, smoke detection and suppression to assess how innovative technologies can support a rapid response and help extinguish wildfires. Wildfire management best practices are always evolving, and Alberta’s government is working to stay ahead of the curve.
For future wildfire seasons, the government is exploring options to potentially expand the province’s air tanker fleet and pilot more emerging firefighting technologies.
- Night-vision goggles amplify light 60,000 times and allow helicopter pilots to work overnight and conduct activities like bucketing operations.
- Wildfire suppression efforts are more likely to be successful at night, as temperatures are usually lower, humidity is typically higher and wildfires are less active.
- Alberta has been successfully using an AI wildfire occurrence prediction system since 2022 to identify areas where wildfires are likely to occur.
- Budget 2024 also includes hiring 100 new firefighters, which will result in five additional 20-person crews.
Alberta Budget 2024 – Employment
Budget 2024: Maintaining Alberta’s economic advantage
Budget 2024 is a responsible plan that maintains Alberta’s competitive advantage so businesses and industry can continue to innovate, thrive and create jobs.
Budget 2024 puts Alberta on a path of continued economic growth through funding that supports creating jobs, attracting investment and developing a skilled and diversified workforce. Strategic investments will empower job creators and innovators to invest, grow and flourish in Alberta’s diversifying economy.
“Budget 2024 reaffirms our commitment to diversify, attract new investment and provide more jobs that keep Alberta’s engine humming. Strategic investments that support the growth of Alberta cities and promote apprenticeship programming and emission reduction technology will help create more opportunities to build an even stronger Alberta.”
Alberta remains a key driver of Canada’s economic prosperity, accounting for 22 per cent of all jobs created in the country last year, despite having just 12 per cent of the population. Compared with other provinces, Alberta has the highest weekly earnings and the lowest taxes, offering many incentives to newcomers seeking a great place to call home.
To further build on these advantages, Budget 2024 introduces the Alberta is Calling attraction bonus, a $5,000 refundable tax credit aimed at attracting out-of-province workers in the skilled trades. A total of $10 million will be provided to workers.
“The Alberta is Calling attraction bonus will support our government’s commitment to build a skilled and resilient labour force that helps businesses and the economy thrive. We will continue to foster the conditions for growth to ensure Alberta remains the best place to live, work, invest, do business and raise a family.”
Budget 2024 supports the sustainable growth of Alberta’s cities and communities. In addition to $724 million in municipal infrastructure funding through the Local Government Fiscal Framework in 2024-25, Budget 2024 launches the new Local Growth and Sustainability Grant, an application-based program that provides $60 million over three years to enable municipalities to fund infrastructure that supports economic development and addresses unique and emergent needs in their communities.
“We’re pleased to see so many people choosing to move to Alberta to experience the advantages this province has to offer, thanks in part to the strong communities we are supporting through predictable, sustainable funding. We also recognize the pressure this growth can put on local communities. The Local Growth and Sustainability Grant is part of our responsible plan to support a vibrant province and help communities respond to growth opportunities and acute sustainability challenges.”
As Alberta’s economy continues to grow, so does the need to sustain a vibrant and robust workforce to meet the needs of Alberta employers. Budget 2024 addresses current and future potential labour shortages by expanding skills and knowledge in key areas.
More than $100 million in new funding for apprenticeship programs will add 3,200 seats to help meet growing demand at Alberta’s post-secondary institutions. Another $361 million from the Budget 2024 Capital Plan will build and upgrade research and learning facilities in some of the province’s world-class post-secondary institutions. Investments include $63 million to renovate and expand the W.J. Elliott agricultural mechanics building at Olds College and $55 million to increase STEM programming capacity at the University of Calgary.
“Supporting growth in Alberta’s economy means ensuring no region is left behind. Our funding commitments to STEM programming at the University of Calgary and agriculture at Olds will create new opportunities for students in our rural economy and those studying in our largest urban centre.”
The Alberta Petrochemicals Incentive Program (APIP) is helping turn the province into a top global producer of petrochemicals. The APIP provides grants to cover 12 per cent of eligible capital costs for Alberta-based petrochemicals projects. In 2023-24, three projects are expected to receive APIP grant payments totalling $116 million, helping to diversify Alberta’s economy and create jobs.
“Royalties collected from oil and gas fund the things Albertans rely on, like health, education and social services. Budget 2024 supports the government’s mission to strengthen investor confidence and support job creation in communities all while lowering emissions through the use of new technologies.”
Budget 2024 highlights
- $597 million over three years from the province’s TIER (Technology Innovation and Emissions Reduction) fund to support a suite of programs that reduce emissions, support clean technology development, enhance climate resiliency and create jobs for Albertans.
- $1.5 billion for child-care services, an increase of $200 million, enabling more Albertans with young children to participate in the workforce.
- $32 million to build three new water intakes in the Designated Industrial Zone in Alberta’s Industrial Heartland, which will support long-term private investment opportunities in the area.
- Almost $30 million over three years for the Aboriginal Business Investment Fund, an increase of nearly $8 million, to help fund business startup and expansion costs in Indigenous communities.
Budget 2024 is a responsible plan to strengthen health care and education, build safe and supportive communities, manage the province’s resources wisely and promote job creation to continue to build Alberta’s competitive advantage.
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