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Alberta Health Minister Adriana LaGrange speaks to the media in Calgary on Sept. 12.Jeff McIntosh/The Canadian Press

Alberta is making changes aimed at making it easier for family doctors and caregivers to see more patients, but the Opposition NDP said it’s yet another government plan to make a plan.

Health Minister Adriana LaGrange said Wednesday that $57 million will be spent over the next three years to enable family doctors and nurse practitioners to help more people.

Each provider would be eligible for up to $10,000 per year.

The province says it will work with the Alberta Medical Association to develop a new payment model that helps family doctors develop long-term comprehensive care relationships with patients.

The plan is to develop a system through which doctors can spend more time with patients and less time doing paperwork.

The province says it will also put $20 million into a fund to help Indigenous communities deliver primary health-care services.

“We know that currently many Albertans cannot find a family doctor or have trouble getting in to see the current one that they have,” LaGrange said at a news conference in Calgary.

“Many feel there is no one to help them with the care they need, so they end up going to an emergency department at a hospital or not getting any care at all.

“Alberta’s government is fully – and I mean fully – committed to taking action to stabilize, to strengthen and to improve Alberta’s primary health-care system.”

Among the other changes, Alberta will allow doctors to bill for virtual mental health checks and therapy, and pay them for extra time spent with patients virtually.

If a patient can’t prove they have insurance coverage, doctors will still be paid – a plan that will also help reduce paperwork.

The province is also to introduce a payment system to help nurse practitioners open their own clinics and take on scope of practice equal to their training and expertise.

NDP health critic David Shepherd said the announcement pushes the problem further down the road while action is needed immediately.

“More Albertans than ever before can’t find a family doctor, but the UCP just keep pushing papers around their desk,” said Shepherd in a statement.

“Today, they announced the creation of another panel with reheated instructions to study actions they’ve been discussing and promising to take for years, including a new primary care compensation model.

“I saw little today that will provide tangible help to recruit or retain family doctors, or improve Albertans’ access to care.”

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