Primary care is ‘crumbling’ Alberta Medical Association says, citing new survey data

By Shilpa Downton

With hundreds of thousands of Albertans still without access to primary care, the Alberta Medical Association (AMA) is once again sounding the alarm.

The organization is out with some unsettling data, and making a plea to the province for help.

“It isn’t just bad, it’s dire. In fact, I’m not even sure if dire captures it — it looks disasterous,” said Dr. Paul Parks, president of the AMA, who called a press conference Tuesday to share disturbing new evidence regarding the ongoing crisis in primary care.

He says as many as 800,000 Albertans don’t have access to a family doctor, and Alberta is falling behind other provinces who are moving quickly and decisively to address primary care concerns closer to home.

“This is a mass casualty event, this is a trauma and the patient’s bleeding out, bleeding to death right now,” Parks said. “Right now, in a trauma metaphor, the first thing you do is stop the bleeding — I’m begging the premier and the minister to let us put a tourniquet on those bleeding wounds, let us stop the bleeding so we have a patient to salvage.”

Parks says clinics across the province are struggling to keep the lights on.

A new survey of doctors carried out by ThinkHQ for the AMA, shows 91 per cent are worried their family clinic won’t survive if the funding model doesn’t change.

“Family medicine isn’t on the brink of collapse anymore,” he said. “I think it’s safe to say it’s crumbling around us as we speak.

“Those doctors, they love what they do. They trained long and hard to become family specialists and they have patients whom they want to care for throughout the patient’s journey and their life,” Parks continued. “But now that circumstances are facing them they’re making very difficult decisions because they feel it’s no longer possible to provide that kind of care.”

Parks says the situation is critical, with one in five doctors saying they won’t make it six months, and eight per cent saying they won’t make it three.

“Only 21 per cent feel they’ll be able to hang in for the next year,” he added.

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