No need to tear down PCNs
Political stability, long-term funding needed
By: By Megan Sarrazin
| Posted: Saturday, Jul 07, 2012 06:00 am
The auditor-general’s criticism of Primary Care Networks is reasonable, particularly since not much has happened with the PCNs in seven years, said Darryl LaBuick, president of the St. Albert and Sturgeon PCN.
LaBuick stressed, however, that there was no need to tear apart the current model. Despite the hurdles faced by PCNs, LaBuick said there have been many successes and restructuring the model would hurt patient care for Albertans.
“I think we need to be careful not to throw [the] baby out with the bathwater,” he said. “The more and more we tear down and rebuild or develop other structures, the more we fragment the care of patients.
“We need to focus on what we’re doing. We need to set up some standards of measurement that are better, but I don’t think we need to do a total tear-down and rebuild.”
The government has put $700 million into the PCN model since 2005 and expects to spend at least $170 million more in 2012-13. Still, LaBuick said political instability and lack of committed long-term financing is hampering the advancement of the program.
“Part of the reason we haven’t got too far is that we’ve got political instability,” he said in explaining why “not much has happened” since the PCN program began in 2005. “We haven’t been able to have long-term funding. We lack long-term funding so we can’t develop a long-term vision.”
LaBuick said this lack of funding has prevented PCNs from reaching their objectives, instead leaving them at “arm’s length.”
Five of the 12 recommendations detailed in the report related to PCNs – four were recommendations for Alberta Health and Wellness with the remaining recommendation aimed at Alberta Health Services.
LaBuick said many of the recommendations detailed in the report are topics the Alberta Medical Association (AMA) has already addressed and discussed with government.
“Over the past couple of years, we’ve had a very unstable government, we’ve had an unstable department and we’ve had an unstable AHS,” he said. “It’s been very difficult to have these conversations at a regional or provincial level.”
Discussions between the AMA and Alberta Health and Wellness have been ongoing for more than a year to reach an agreement. An agreement in principal was reached in late March, however the deadline passed at the end of June.
“We are still very much wanting to continue negotiating,” said Health and Wellness Minister Fred Horne. “The job hasn’t really changed, we need to get an agreement with our physicians.”
The AMA stands behind the PCN model and advocates for continuation.