Alberta spends $3M for 30 nurse practitioners for remote, specialized areas

EDMONTON – Alberta is hiring up to 30 new nurse practitioners to work in remote areas or places where it’s difficult for patients to see a family doctor.

Health Minister Tyler Shandro says the new hires will work with family physicians and others in primary care networks.

Nurse practitioners are registered nurses who have taken advanced education and can perform tasks such as setting broken bones, doing checkups, ordering tests and prescribing medications.

Alberta has 600 nurse practitioners, but Shandro says almost all of them work in hospitals or outpatient clinics.

He says the goal is to have them work in areas like Bonnyville, where the primary care network there has 600 patients on a wait list for a doctor.

“We’re delivering on our campaign commitment to add more nurse practitioners, to give people in underserved communities more access to primary care and other health services,” Shandro said. “Nurse practitioners are valuable, skilled health-care professionals, and we look forward to working with them to strengthen our publicly funded health system.”

Anne Summach, with the Nurse Practitioner Association of Alberta, says she doesn’t see any problem finding 30 practitioners to work away from the major centres given they will have more opportunity to do a broader range of work.

“Any day that the government announces funding for more nurse practitioners is a good day for Albertans. However, today’s promise of more nurse practitioners is just a drop in the bucket compared this government’s panel recommendations for deep cuts to health care funding and Americanization of services,” said David Shepherd, NDP Official Opposition Critic. “Nurse Practitioners are a great addition to our health care system but the UCP is going to make it harder for them to deliver care by making a 20 per cent cut.”

Recruitment begins soon for new nurse practitioners across Alberta, including:

Aspen Primary Care Network in northern Alberta, to provide services for many Treaty 8 First Nations in the area (such as Driftpile and Bigstone Cree) and Metis Settlements (including Peavine and Gift Lake).

Bow Valley Primary Care Network, to provide services in the areas of Banff, Canmore and Lake Louise, where patients currently have to seek care through hospital emergency departments.

Bonnyville Primary Care Network, where 600 patients are currently on a wait-list for a doctor.

Edmonton Southside Primary Care Network, to increase services for foster children at the Covenant Health Foster Care Clinic.

Sherwood Park-Strathcona County Primary Care Network, to provide services in the hospital’s opioid dependency clinic.

(With file from Government of Alberta, NDP media releases)