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More than 4,000 family physicians across Alberta see up to 40 patients a day — this amounts to 160,000 patients being seen by family physicians per day — creating healthier people and communities. Family physicians have a critical role in an effective public health response. The results of the Primary Health Care Opioid Response Initiative (PHC ORI) over the past two years required the ACFP to mobilize a trusted, skilled, and valuable workforce. We worked with our partners to present the evidence behind the effectiveness of treating opioid use disorder in a primary care setting and shared those findings with 2,166 primary care providers. Since June 2018, the number of prescribers of Opioid Agonist Therapy (OAT) have more than doubled and there are now 891 (457 are new) Primary Care Network (PCN) providers prescribing OAT. The number of patients being treated in their medical home is now 6,482 (an increase of 1,328 patients), and that number is still growing.
Currently, the ACFP and family physicians are being called upon to lean in, be prepared and assist with the potential spread of Novel Coronavirus, Hepatitis C, and Syphilis. If there is one thing that we have all learned from the opioid response, it is that a well-structured, integrated public health response system is difficult to mobilize, but not impossible. We need everyone to continue the tough work of building tried and true working relationships with community providers, family physicians, clinics, PCNs, health centres, community pharmacies, and hospitals across AHS zones; we need to keep those networks healthy.
Maintaining strong relationships takes deliberate ongoing effort. We must build relationships with new partners in spite of the recent AHS review and uncertainty. As an integrated health system utilizing all community resources such as AHS services, PCNs and physician owned clinics, we can unite and conquer, rather than scramble and duplicate. Let’s “keep it together” and tackle these public health challenges together.
Terri Potter, BA, PMP, CAE
Executive Director, ACFP