Gateway Gazette

Government, Primary Care Partners Focus on Sustainability

The government and its partners in primary care are making changes to ensure Primary Care Networks can deliver quality health services to Albertans for years to come.

Under the new policies, Primary Care Networks (PCNs) will retain a small portion of any surpluses they might accumulate each year. The government will assume responsibility for costs a PCN might have to pay if it closes, so PCNS can direct all of their funding to patient care rather than a contingency account.

“Primary Care Networks provide health care for 3.5 million Albertans – they are central to our efforts to help patients get the care they need, right in their communities. We have worked closely with the Alberta Medical Association to make changes that support Primary Care Networks so they can continue delivering these important services to Albertans.”

Sarah Hoffman, Minister of Health

 

“This government is the first to understand that investing in primary care is the key to address cost-effective, health-care system reform. Ensuring long-term support for PCNs is a significant commitment to quality, equitable and sustainable care for Albertans.”

Dr. Phillip van der Merwe, Primary Care Network Physician Lead, Alberta Medical Association

 

Of the $65 million currently sitting in PCN surpluses and closing reserves, $60 million will be returned to Alberta Health to ensure continued service levels within the health system.

Going forward, Primary Care Networks will be permitted to retain a small portion of any surpluses they might accumulate each year, which is consistent with guidelines for other government funded entities. A detailed policy on PCN surpluses is being finalized.

PCNs will also no longer be required to set aside funds to cover closing costs. In the event that a PCN closes, Alberta Health will be responsible for costs in accordance with the newly approved PCN Closure Policy.

Alberta Health will maintain a small amount of funding each year, to be used to address equity, cash flow or other challenges that arise in individual PCNs. PCNs and the government will work together to make decisions on how these funds are used.

In Alberta, Primary Care Networks are networks of doctors and health providers such as nurses, dietitians and pharmacists working together to provide primary health care to patients. The first PCNs opened in 2005. There are now 42 PCNs with approximately 3,800 physicians and the full-time-equivalent of 1,000 other providers. They serve 3.5 million Albertans.

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