Struggling to find a family doctor? Nurse practitioners can fill the gaps, LaGrange says

By News Staff

As many Albertans struggle to find a family doctor, Health Minister Adriana LaGrange is hopeful nurse practitioners will fill the gaps.

“There are so many people who are unattached, who don’t have a primary care provider, that having nurse practitioners who can take some of the burden off of physicians will certainly help,” LaGrange said.

“I really believe this will actually save the health-care system dollars.”

Nurse practitioners, who typically have master’s degrees or PhDs, can prescribe and provide about 80 per cent of the services a family doctor can. They are regulated by the College of Registered Nurses of Alberta.

But up until now, Alberta nurse practitioners couldn’t open clinics in the public health system – something they can do in several other provinces.

“We already have several nurse practitioners who have indicated they are ready to go,” said Susan Prendergast, president of the Nurse Practitioner Association of Alberta (NPAA). “Setting up a clinic is easy. I’ve done it before. The issue is just making sure we have the infrastructure from AHS.”

The NPAA expects clinics to start opening in the new year.

The Opposition NDP says not enough is being done immediately to help those without a doctor.

“At a time when other provinces have taken substantial action, Danielle Smith and Minister LaGrange have done next to nothing to support family doctors currently in the province, and have failed at attracting new physicians here,” Alberta NDP Health Critic David Shepherd said in a news release.

“The UCP must get in line with what health care professionals need, and stop this attempt to dismantle and discredit our already strained health care system.”

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