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.
Indigenous-owned LNG projects in jeopardy with proposed emissions cap, leaders warn
Indigenous leaders meet with Japan’s ambassador to Canada Kanji Yamanouchi. Photo courtesy Energy for a Secure Future
From the Canadian Energy Centre
By Cody Ciona
‘It’s like we’re finally at the table and we’re having to fight to keep our seat at the table’
A proposed cap on oil and gas emissions will threaten opportunities for Indigenous communities to bring cleaner alternatives to coal to international markets, Indigenous leaders warned during a recent webinar.
Karen Ogen, CEO of the First Nations LNG Alliance, fears Indigenous-led projects like Cedar LNG and Ksi Lisims LNG are threatened by the cap, which is essentially a cap on production.
“If we’re going to help China and India get off of coal and help reduce their greenhouse gas emissions, it makes common sense for us to be selling our LNG to Asia and to other countries. To put a cap on, it would just stop us from doing that,” Ogen said.
“It’s like we’re finally at the table and we’re having to fight to keep our seat at the table.”
Indigenous communities across Canada have increasingly become involved in oil and gas projects to secure economic prosperity and reduce on-reserve poverty.
Since 2022, more than 75 First Nations and Metis communities have entered ownership agreements across western Canada. Among those are key projects like the Coastal GasLink pipeline and the joint investment of 23 communities to obtain a 12 per cent ownership stake in several oil sands pipelines.
The planned federal emissions cap will stall progress toward economic reconciliation, Ogen said.
“Our leaders did not accept this and fought hard to have rights and titles recognized,” she said.
“These rights were won through persistence and determination. It’s been a long journey, but we are finally at the table with more control over our destiny.”
Chris Sankey, CEO of Blackfish Enterprises and a former elected councillor for the Lax Kw’alaams Band in B.C., said the proposed emissions cap could stifle Indigenous communities pushing for poverty reduction.
“We’re working hard to try to get our people out of poverty. All [the emissions cap is] doing is pushing them further into debt and further into poverty,” he said.
“When oil and gas is doing well, our people do well.”
Together, the Trans Mountain Pipeline Expansion, LNG Canada project and Coastal GasLink pipeline have spent more than $10 billion in contracts with Indigenous and local businesses
Indigenous employment in the oil and gas industry has also increased by more than 20 per cent since 2014.
For Stephen Buffalo, CEO of the Indian Resource Council, an emissions cap feels like a step in the wrong direction after years of action to become true economic partners is finally making headway.
“Being a participant in the natural resource sector and making true partnerships, has been beneficial for First Nations,” he said.
“So, when you see a government trying to attack this industry in that regard, it is very disheartening.”
Taxpayers Federation hoping for personal tax relief in Alberta budget
From the Canadian Taxpayers Federation
Albertans need income tax relief now
Author: Kris Sims
The Canadian Taxpayers Federation is calling on the Alberta government to stick to its promise of cutting its income tax in tomorrow’s provincial budget.
“Cutting the provincial income tax was a huge campaign promise from the UCP and it needs to happen right away,” said Kris Sims, CTF Alberta Director. “Finance Minister Nate Horner should announce this income tax cut in the budget tomorrow.”
The provincial budget will be presented Feb. 29.
During the 2023, election the UCP promised to create a lower income tax bracket for the first $59,000 of earnings, charging eight per cent instead of the current 10 per cent.
The UCP said that move would save Albertans earning $60,000 or more about $760 per year.
The Alberta government currently charges workers who make under $142,292 per year a 10 per cent income tax rate.
By comparison, British Columbia charges an income tax of five per cent on the first $45,654 of earnings and seven per cent up to $91,310.
In B.C., a worker earning $100,000 pays about $5,857 in provincial income tax.
In Alberta that same worker pays about $7,424 in provincial income tax.
“Taxpayers need to see a balanced budget, spending restraint and our promised lower income taxes in this budget,” said Sims.
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