June 14th, 2024

Healthcare a problem, Phillips has confidence in the solution

By Cal Braid - Lethbridge Herald Local Journalism Initiative Reporter on February 21, 2023.

In 2021, local hair stylist Branden Sant suffered a serious back injury. He didn’t have a family doctor to help him through it, and on Friday, he shared his story publicly at the Galt Museum. Shannon Phillips, MLA for Lethbridge-West, and Rob Miyashiro, Alberta NDP candidate for Lethbridge-East, joined Sant to support him and offer their best solutions
Miyashiro introduced Sant:
“One in three people in Lethbridge like Branden do not have access to a family doctor. A lack of access to family medicine is becoming an increasing problem across the province. As a result of the UCP’s hostility and additional red tape, many (doctors) have left the province, retired early, or just left the profession altogether.” He noted that many Albertans now leave health conditions untreated until they reach a crisis point or alternatively take their doctor’s office problem to the emergency room.
Sant stepped to the mic to relay his story, saying, “In the summer of 2021, I fell and fractured a vertebrae. I went to the emergency room which was overwhelmed with patients.
“Even with the fracture in my spine, I didn’t receive any pain medication until I went to the drugstore myself with my prescription. It was obvious that the staff and doctors were overstretched and overburdened by the people in the room. From what I understand, the situation in our ER has not changed.
“After that visit, my pain persisted for over a year. I was told that with some rest and pain meds, I would be able to slowly return to life and work. To make matters worse, I was one of the many people in Lethbridge who didn’t have a family doctor. I had no professionals to follow up with.” He said that his pain level did not improve, and that he had to reduce his hours at the salon and spa that he worked at because it required him to remain on his feet all day. The financial fallout and loss of a full-time livelihood negatively impacted his mental health,” Sant said.
“If I had access to a family doctor or any health team, I can’t help but wonder if I could have saved myself months of pain and grief. I know I’m not the only person affected by this crisis in our healthcare system here in Lethbridge. We’ve been raising the alarms for years, and I haven’t seen any improvements.”
He concluded by endorsing the NDP plan that Phillips would go on to explain.
Phillips said that it was people like Sant who were helping to “raise the profile” of the healthcare issue. She said that without primary care being an option for some, families have no option but to wait it out in the ER. In her words, “You need care when you need it.”
“It’s time to take a new approach to primary care with a new government,” Phillips said, and went on to outline the NDP plan for primary care, calling it Family Health Teams.
She said the plan would enable another one million Albertans to access primary care “within a day or two and close to home.” Family Health Teams could include multiple family doctors, nurse practitioners, registered and licensed practical nurses, mental health therapists, pharmacists, social workers, dieticians, paramedics, physiotherapists and others.
She promised “immediate access” to a range of primary care services, saying, “you will receive your primary care in one primary location.”
She added that there are working models for this kind of care that currently operate in both Taber and Calgary. With the plan, she committed that the NDP would quickly establish 10 new family health clinics across the province.
“You bet that Lethbridge will be on the top of that list to receive one,” she said.
Asked if she had confidence that Alberta could provide and attract new health care professionals, she answered, “I have confidence that if we elect an Alberta NDP government led by Rachel Notley, (…) and if we have the structured, focused recruitment that this plan entails, we will be able to reach that goal.” She qualified it by stating the importance of having a government and team that respects public healthcare workers. Phillips also pointed out a few of the perks of living in Lethbridge and the advantage of having both a college and university to collaborate with in their problem solving efforts.

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