Nixon: Let Nurse Practitioners do what they do best

Nixon: Let Nurse Practitioners do what they do best

MLA Jason Nixon’s column

Last week, Nov. 12-18, was Nurse Practitioner Week across Canada.

This yearly observance was an opportunity to recognize an expert group of hardworking medical professionals. Today, dedicated Nurse Practitioners (NPs) are making a real difference across our province, especially in rural communities where it is getting increasingly difficult for folks to access our healthcare system.

Here in our constituency, unfortunately, Nurse Practitioner Week took on a sombre tone. Sundre is poised to lose one of its best-known and esteemed NPs, Tammy Surbey, due almost entirely to bureaucratic intransigence.

Despite mounting evidence supporting the full integration of NPs into Alberta’s primary health system, the NDP refuses to take meaningful action.

Nurse Practitioners are highly trained healthcare professionals who provide a wide variety of medical services. Tammy, for example, may legally assess, diagnose, prescribe, order, and interpret tests, and she will refer patients to specialists when necessary. As the Baby Boomer generation continues to retire, addressing the rising demand for health services is vital. NPs can help us improve access to front-line services while simultaneously reducing costs by alleviating some of the pressures on doctors.

Despite these obvious advantages, hundreds of NPs remain under-utilized and under-employed, because the Province refuses to make integration a priority. This is an issue of vital importance across rural Alberta, where recruiting medical professionals is a constant concern. It’s one of the reasons the Rural Health Services Review Committee was established in September of 2014, meeting with folks from more than 100 communities. Among its recommendations, the Committee called on government to remove regulatory barriers to ensure NPs and other practitioners can do what they do best: helping patients receive timely healthcare.

Shortly after her election in 2015, the NDP Health Minister seemed to recognize the need for action, when she said, “expanding the role of NPs and addressing…the barriers for their employment are a priority for me.”

After two years and no meaningful changes, hundreds of NPs remain stuck on the sidelines. Meanwhile, Sundre – where more than 2,000 people don’t have a family practitioner – is poised to lose a medical professional with 26 years experience in the community. Tammy must now commute to Red Deer or Calgary in order to maintain her license, leaving 350 rural patients behind.

Folks, this is no way to run our health system. That’s why your Official Opposition, joined by the Alberta Chambers of Commerce, the AUMA, the AAMD&C, and the Nurse Practitioner Association of Alberta are all demanding change. For my part, I was pleased to officially introduce Tammy and her supporters at the Legislature last week and remind the Health Minister that inaction within our healthcare system deeply affects people throughout our province.

It’s time to embrace the obvious benefits that NPs offer and avoid potentially driving them away to neighbouring jurisdictions. Believe me, if they go, we will miss them when they’re gone.

Just ask Sundre.

MLA, Jason Nixon, Leader of the Opposition

Rimbey-Rocky Mountain House- Sundre

Box 1547, Sundre,AB T0M 1X0