Wednesday , 5 October 2022

Chamber looking at alternative care models to help health care in Cold Lake

The Cold Lake Regional Chamber of Commerce is looking to rally community partners to create an alternative care model for healthcare patients — and its their hope that it could alleviate problems residents are having in receiving care, and work to help attract new physicians to the area.

Chamber president Ryan Lefebvre along with representatives from 143 HealthCARE presented to the City of Cold Lake and M.D. of Bonnyville councils in July to pitch this alternative care model, which would see a better usage of existing resources to strengthen care for residents.

With difficulties in attracting and retaining physicians nurses to the Lakeland area, plus ER closures almost on a weekly basis at the Cold Lake hospital, this model would provide a better work-lifestyle balance for doctors, plus take some stresses away from the hospital side.

“We want to be clear that this is another solution that could work in Cold Lake and because it’s such a big complicated issue, I think all of our community partners and stakeholders are working at different solutions to try and get this past the finish line,” said Lefebvre.

It breaks down by means of a clinic, where instead of doctors having a fee-for-service model, they would switch to a salary, and also have better options to chose settings they would provide to work in the most.

“There’s traditional measures and there’s alternative measures, which is sort of what we’re looking at are options,” said executive director Sherri Buckle. “They can work complimentarily, just because there’s traditional measures being ought after right now, doesn’t mean that we can’t do alternative measures as well.”

The Chamber got involved on the health care as they heard from businesses that the health care difficulties are creating issues in hiring professionals of all types to work in Cold Lake.

Lefebvre says it impacts one of their key concerns — economic development.

“It’s an important issue to everyone in the community. And then from a chamber perspective, we’ve heard multiple times from industry employers that it’s really hard to recruit and retain employees in the area and to get the employees here because of the healthcare,” he said. 

There are two phases of the plan.

In April 2022, the Chamber first linked up with 143 HealthCARE to do a scan of the area and how primary care is delivered in Cold Lake. The next phase is the fundraising stage and plan on how to create a clinic.

They have gone to municipal partners, along with Hearts for Healthcare, for $25,000 to $35,000 each, Buckle said, while putting up $25,000 themselves.

“Phase two would actually be the implementation of the project. So looking for the clinic, the agreements with Alberta Health — because of course, those agreements because they’re different than the traditional health care, that has to be negotiated,” she said.

“Those contracts would be negotiated. We would be looking for supporters in the community such as, maybe there would be another clinic that is already operating with staff? And is there room to put physicians in your area or in your clinic and share those services? So all of those, so we’re at that stage where this is the model, this is what we need to do to implement it, and that’s what phase two is.”

Alternative models are being used in a Crowfoot clinic in Calgary as well as Taber. As Stacey Strilchuk and Colleen McKinstry explained to Cold Lake city council, these models shift clinic volume and physician income away from being the focal point. It allows the scheduling and booking procedures to have better workflow and not necessarily being limited to one concern, either. 

City council discussed the issue at Tuesday’s regular meeting during the closed portion.

Ultimately however, the Chamber wants to assist in this aspect of their community, and advance it to the pros who know the best ways forward.

“We are not in the healthcare business, we don’t want to be in the healthcare business. And our goal would be to simply to get this up and running, and then allow the people who are the professionals to run it.”

About Michael Menzies

Menzies is the editor-at-large for Connected Media Inc. Born and raised in Vermilion, he started in May 2018 during his NAIT Radio and Television practicum and reports on local politics, sports, and community issues. He became the Bonnyville Pontiacs play-by-play voice during the 2019-20 season. He also comments on provincial and national issues. Menzies hosts Connected! Evening Monday-Thursday at 5 o’clock. He also likes to buy books and read some of them.