Prior to 2004 Chestermere had no family physicians practising in town. Dr. David Vermaak of the Lake Med Clinic was the first family practitioner to open up in Chestermere in late 2004, and like the population in Chestermere, his practice has grown rapidly.
Now, 10 years later Chestermere has about eight family physicians, five of which are located at the Lake Med Clinic. Considerable work is being done by a vital group of healthcare workers and other parties to bring more comprehensive healthcare services to Chestermere. The Primary Care Network (PCN) is a partnership between local physicians and Alberta Health Services with a purpose to support the development of family practices in Chestermere and build a capacity for health in the community.
According to Joe MacGillivray, Executive Director of the Calgary Rural Primary Care Network, the goal of the Chestermere PCN is to connect every resident of Chestermere with a patient-centered health home. He explains that the PCN and local docs are investing in state-of-the-art Primary Care processes providing patients with comprehensive care emphasising a proactive and preventative approach. “The Chestermere PCN is a leading edge primary care group that have all adopted this new strategy to provide the best care for patients.”
“The growth in Chestermere’s medical services means that residents do not need to go into the city to see a doctor, in fact right now is a good time to begin seeing a family doctor in Chestermere if you haven’t already, while they are still accepting new patients,” says MacGillivray, “In doing so you will be assured that your comprehensive health needs are met and that physicians will work with you to address health issues and maximize your wellbeing.”
Alberta Health recently released a report titled ‘Primary Health Care Strategy’ that calls all health providers to enhance the delivery of care, encourage cultural change and establish building blocks for healthy communities. In the documents cover letter, Health Minister Fred Horne claims that “Unless we take action now, an Alberta where everyone is as healthy as they can be will remain an unattainable vision.”
Primary care services provided by your doctor represents the first point of contact with the health system. Family physicians diagnose and treat physical and mental health conditions, proactively screen for health issues such as high blood pressure and serve as a local connection to specialty and acute care health services when they are needed.
Dr. David Vermaak explains that within Chestermere, a major part of primary health care is the idea of creating a medical home. “We are trying to keep all services under one roof so that our patients can get same day access but at the same time they have the back up of their own physician that has access to all their notes and records because everything is collected in the same database.”
“We started to build this idea in 2005 and our vision is to capture all of Chestermere from the cradle to the grave, to provide them with all the resources they need for good quality healthcare and we have ideas to expand the service so that nobody needs to leave to access health care,” says Dr. Vermaak, who goes onto explain that down the road he would even like to bring further services to Chestermere including a clinic to enhance care for women, a heart health and rehabilitation clinic and even more comprehensive services for people with diabetes.
“Our idea is to tie all of the resources in the community and all of the services into the practice so that we serve as a community team,” says Dr. Vermaak, “That is the idea of the medical home, to encompasses everything that patients need – whether they know they need it or not. The strategy is largely about early intervention, providing health care for people before they become ill and managing disease in the early stages.”
Dr. Dan Chen is a new female physician to Chestermere and will be joining the team at Lake Med this summer. She choose Chestermere to practice because like Dr. Vermaak, she said she very much believes in the idea of creating a medical home for the patients she serves. “The concept that the Lake Med Clinic has about the medical home, where a team provides the patient with continuous and comprehensive care in the community is the exact philosophy that I have so I am excited to be a part of it,” said Dr. Chen.
In conclusion, what the physicians of Chestermere want residents to know is that they have access to primary care services that they can be proud of and together, with the local family physicians, they can create a healthy community.