Ensuring that we continue to have sustainable health care services in rural Alberta is a discussion that will involve everyone – residents, businesses and health care providers.
In the Village of Consort, Alberta Health Services (AHS) has been facilitating this discussion with the local community in a variety of ways, including a small working group made of local physicians, community leaders and the Consort and District Medical Board.
The focus of much of these discussions is the Consort Hospital and Care Centre, which offers 15 long-term care beds, lab, x-ray and outpatient care as well as the future of the five acute care beds and emergency department services which had to be temporarily closed in 2011 due to a shortage of physicians and other healthcare providers.
Discussions in Consort have resembled discussions in many parts of rural Canada – availability of doctors, the types of services that should be available in a rural community, and how the health authorities should plan for the future in an age of ever increasing budgetary considerations.
Sustainable and appropriate service delivery includes an understanding that to run a service 24 hours per day, every day, takes a team and cannot rely on unsustainable demands put on individual service providers. The quality and safety of care to patients is directly linked to the state of health of the care providers. No one can sustain being on duty 24 hours per day every day or every other day.
Communities of practice need to be established between communities to ensure we don’t burn out our physicians, hence perpetuating the cycle of physician loss and the need to recruit.
It should be clear that while there are no easy answers to international issues such as doctor shortages, AHS remains committed to reaching solutions with the local community in the form of a long-term plan that meets their demonstrated needs now and into the future.
Together we’ll build a sustainable plan for health services in the area; one that ensures we are able to provide reliable services that are less susceptible to current, and future, physician and staff shortages.
Dr. Evan Lundall
Central Zone Medical Director
Alberta Health Services