Last week, the province announced that the first tranche of funds to improve Alberta's primary health care system has been distributed. 

 "The first allocation of $12 million for 2023-24 has been given to the Alberta Medical Association (AMA), which will administer the program."

According to a news release by the province, in late 2023, the government committed to providing $57 million over three years to support family practitioners in managing their increasing number of patients.

The province added that payments through the program will vary depending on the number of patients on a physician’s panel.

"Physicians who have a patient panel of more than 500 patients are eligible for a quarterly payment between $1,000 and $2,500. Each provider has the potential to receive up to $10,000 annually. Growing and managing a panel of patients in primary care generates costs that are not faced by all practice environments."

Recipients are expected to use the money to fund staff, technology and other practice resources to reduce the time, cost and effort spent on administrative tasks involved with providing comprehensive primary care.

The funding supports are part of the Panel Management Support Program is meant to help offset costs for primary care providers to provide comprehensive care as their patient panels grow, which is part of the larger Modernizing Alberta’s Primary Health Care System (MAPS) initiative.

Dr. Paul Parks, President of the AMA said that he is appreciative of the ongoing discussions with the minister and the funds that are being announced. 

"Immediate stabilization is just the first phase, requiring additional support of practices until they can transition to a new model for funding comprehensive, lifelong care for our patients. We look forward to more details around the timing of the rest of the budget," he added.

However, Dr. Parks underlined that more work must be done, including two more phases part of the AMA's proposal to the government.

"The federal money and yesterday’s panel management support funds are a good start – phase 1. But we need all the funds to flow immediately to save family and rural medicine, and we need phases 2 and 3 to be supported. We cannot wait several more months for the $100 million in federal funding to be distributed."

Dr. Parks cited statistics that he also had previously cited in late 2023, that one in five family and rural physicians say their practices may not survive another 6 months, while another 8 per cent say they can’t make 3 months.

"61 per cent of our doctors say they are considering withdrawing from comprehensive care to relocate or to retire early. We must stabilize them first, then sustain them to continue delivering comprehensive care until they can transition to a new payment model option."

Health Minister Adriana LaGrange said that this funding will help family practitioners manage their growing number of patients.

"We continue to collaborate with the AMA at various working tables to address challenges facing the system and to do what is necessary to make primary health care the foundation of the entire health care system.”

The province stated that this funding is in addition to $200 million over two years through the new Canada-Alberta Health Funding Agreement to help stabilize primary health care and improve access to family physicians, which will be available in April.

Nurse practitioners will also be eligible to receive this funding once the new funding model for nurse practitioners is finalized in the coming weeks.

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