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Minister responds to council concerns

The provincial minister of health has responded to correspondence from Mountain View County outlining concerns with current health-care services in the district.

The provincial minister of health has responded to correspondence from Mountain View County outlining concerns with current health-care services in the district.

Minister Sarah Hoffman’s letter of response was received by council at the recent regularly scheduled council meeting.

In September council sent a number of one-page issue summaries to various government departments.

The summaries were prepared by the county’s inter-governmental communication’s department.

The summary sent to the Health Ministry called on the department to “review the current health funding models and arrive at a single consistent funding approach for all health regions in the province.”

Specifically regarding rural medical professional retention and recruitment, the summary said, in part, that, “While support of all plans and programs is a positive step to ensure that health funding is properly apportioned, our municipality remains steadfast in its support of a strategy that directly addresses the issues of retention and recruitment of medical professionals for rural areas.

“Mountain View County requests Alberta Health make clear through a series of communications to rural communities what the province does provide in terms of rural health professional recruitment, including incentives and/or enhancements to attract health professionals.”

The summary also stated that the county is “concerned about the practice of differing funding models from zone to zone within Alberta Health Services. Further, as a municipality that provides enhanced health care funding through a municipal grant program and serves as a requisitioned member of Mountain View Seniors' Housing, the difficulty caused by having to navigate and at times manage multiple health funding models is unsustainable.”

In her letter of response, Minister Hoffman said the province is working to address rural physician recruitment and retention issues.

“We are currently working with our partners through the Physician Resource Planning Committee on a longterm, needs-based physician resource forecast and other action to ensure physician resources are available to meet health needs of Albertans,” she said.

“The committee has placed a particular emphasis on improving physician distribution to rural and remote communities, underserved urban area, and Indigenous committees.”

Recruitment and retention of health-care professionals in rural communities is a “complex issue that includes considerations such as lifestyle, employment opportunities for partners and spouses, education and extracurricular activities for children, as well as access to amenities.

“Ultimately, all stakeholders in rural and remote communities have a role to play in attracting health care professionals,” she said.

Regarding the issue of health funding consistency, Hoffman said the province is working on that issue as well.

“AHS has been working for several years to implement provincially standardized care and funding models in designated supportive living and for home care services in such environments and lodges.

“While progress has been made in moving several sites to standardized funding, the data that would enable full implementation of ‘acuity’ based modifiers is not yet complete. In addition, these changes require renegotiation of numerous contracts.”

Council passed a motion receiving the response letter as information.