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November 28, 2017: Pushing the case for Nurse Practitioner funding

Pushing the case for Nurse Practitioner funding

Tuesday, Nov 28, 2017 06:00 am

The Community of Sundre advocating for an NP funding model at the Alberta Legislature with MLA Jason Nixon (Rear, third from the right) and accompanied by NPAA Presdient Teddie Tanguay (Front, third from the right) and NPAA Director of Primary Care, Jared Friesen (Rear, 4th from the right).

A delegation of local elected officials, medical professionals and community members led by MLA Jason Nixon recently travelled to Edmonton to push the case for improved nurse practitioner funding in the province.

“He did a fabulous job representing myself and nurse practitioners in Alberta,” said Tammy Surbey — a nurse practitioner in Sundre who due to an absence of government funding will no longer be able to work in the community — about the Rimbey-Rocky Mountain House-Sundre riding’s United Conservative Party MLA.

A delegation of local elected officials, medical professionals and community members led by MLA Jason Nixon recently travelled to Edmonton to push the case for improved nurse practitioner funding in the province.

“He did a fabulous job representing myself and nurse practitioners in Alberta,” said Tammy Surbey — a nurse practitioner in Sundre who due to an absence of government funding will no longer be able to work in the community — about the Rimbey-Rocky Mountain House-Sundre riding’s United Conservative Party MLA.

Although a rather brief discussion, Surbey said it was at least a start to open the door for future conversations that could eventually potentially lead to a tangible plan to better accommodate nurse practitioners, who play a crucial role in filling a health-care gap in rural communities.

“It’s not going to happen overnight,” said the nurse practitioner, who also previously worked at the Sundre Hospital and Care Centre for many years as a registered nurse.

“(But) I am optimistic.”

The many people who stepped up to voice their support have humbled, inspired and motivated her to continue pursuing every option possible to continue practising in Sundre, she told the Round Up last week.

“There is such a need. When I worked at the hospital for so many years, I saw the need to improve primary care accessibility.”

Some of the ways nurse practitioners reduce health-care costs include providing assistance to a patient who might otherwise needlessly visit the emergency department, as well as offering better chronic disease management so people diagnosed with ailments such as heart problems are seen on a more regular basis so they do not end up back in emergency, she said.

“A lot of people don’t realize this, but it costs the health-care system less to see me in the clinic as opposed to going to emergency for the exact same issue.”

The trip to the legislative assembly in Edmonton on Thursday, Nov. 16 was a positive experience, and while the community has to get together to discuss ideas to consider available options to present the health minister in the future, at least Sarah Hoffman seemed to be receptive, she said.

“She felt there was a need to sit down and have a chat. We’re definitely on her radar. I think she knows that Sundre is a very strong community and will advocate for whatever they feel they need,” she said.

“The Alberta government needs to listen to the voice of rural people. Many pilot studies and research has been done over the years to show that nurse practitioners provide safe, excellent, patient-focused care in a cost-effective manner.”

Gerald Ingeveld, chairman of the Sundre Hospital Futures Committee, also joined the delegation, but felt the health minister was deflective.

“That was a little disappointing,” Ingeveld told the Round Up.

“I was under the impression an Alberta Health funding model was imminent,” he said, adding that did not seem to be the case.

However, Ingeveld said he was encouraged by the community’s show of support for Surbey and nurse practitioners throughout the province.

“Politics can spin fairly quickly — things can turn around fairly quickly.”

Efforts will have to be ramped up to communicate and really drive home the point that while cities tend to have too many doctors, rural communities struggle to recruit and retain medical professionals, he said.

“There are enough nurse practitioners now, and being graduated in this province, that we could end that physician shortage immediately.”

Nixon said the issue is complicated, and that the delegation’s intent was to bring the matter back to the forefront.

“Our main goal of bringing people to Edmonton and spending time in question period was to bring the issue of nurse practitioners back on the table for discussion,” he told the Round Up.

“We were able to do that.”

The result of the meeting with the health minister left open the door for future meetings, he said.

“We’ll keep raising this issue and work towards a solution.”

Hundreds of patients in Sundre face losing their primary care provider if Surbey can no longer continue to practise in the community, and rural areas throughout the province are in similar situations, he said.

“It’s a rural Alberta issue — particularly as the population ages.”

The NDP previously said it wanted to address this issue, but there simply has not been much movement towards reaching that goal, he said, adding the official Opposition intends to hold the government to past promises.

The MLA is optimistic that more conversations with the government might yield results, and said the UCP would during its upcoming spring policy convention discuss including the issue of funding for nurse practitioners in the party’s platform.

“We will be making sure this important issue is discussed.”

Surbey encourages residents who wish to offer support to contact the health minister to share concerns they might have about health issues in the community.

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