West Edmonton medicentre aims to reduce waits

By Tim Gerwing

EDMONTON — A manager at a west Edmonton walk-in clinic says a program that gives nurses more duties in primary health offices is succeeding in shortening wait times, and improving the efficiency of health-care delivery.

The Fastrack program, started in 2009, is working, said Jeannie Ewaskow, a clinic manager at Westend Medicentre at 9509 156 St.

Fastrack is designed to lighten the doctor’s workload by giving nurses licence to do tasks previously only done by doctors, such as:

  • Stitch removal
  • Prescription refills
  • X-rays
  • Allergy shots
  • Travel immunization
  • Health information

A doctor still audits any service given by patients, Ewaskow said. “The doctor comes in, looks it over and says, ‘yea’ or ‘nay,’ signs it off, and that’s it,” said Ewaskow.

Fastrack at Westend Medicentre
A man and woman wait for Fastrack service at a west-end medicentre.

Waiting times for medical services sparked controversy in 2010, and Alberta Health Services has been working on various ways to address the problems, said spokesperson Kerry Williamson.

“There’s a lot of work that’s been done to help bring wait times down,” he said.

A provincewide initiative to create thousands of new acute-care beds over the next five years is on course, Williamson said. The province is now putting mental health professionals in emergency departments, to better treat patients with mental illness.

Creating better home care and acute care will be crucial to health care efficacy, given Alberta’s rising senior population. The Misericordia Community Hospital treated 9,000 seniors in 2010, says Alberta Health Services.

Dr. Raj Sherman, the newly chosen leader of the provincial Liberal Party, remains unconvinced that the measures are sufficient. Sherman agreed home care and acute care need attention, but said the government’s five-year timeline is too long to wait for improvements, and the system is rife with fiscal irresponsibility.

The Conservative government’s efforts in health care are “hogwash,” he told students at Grant MacEwan University’s west campus on Sept. 22.

“We’re now the second worst performer in the nation, and the highest spender,” said Sherman, a former physician.