We are pleased to share that after hearing from patients and providers, the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Alberta (CPSA) have established the Continuity of Care standard of practice.  This standard clarifies the expectation of doctors and peers in this important area.  No one expects an individual doctor to do everything on their own, and the College has included a number of resources outlining how they see doctors working together.  After all, patients are patients around the clock and it takes teamwork and collaboration of all providers along with patients to provide the care needed.

Through a media release, information linked from their homepage and a document titled “Advice to the profession”, CPSA has made an effort to be transparent to patients, their families and to physicians who are all impacted by the update.  Included in the Media release is a statement from CPSA Registrar Dr. Trevor Theman;

“We do not expect our members to be available 24/7, but do expect them to have a system in place for after-hours triage and to receive and respond to critical test results. This is not only good patient care, but also enables reasonable and sustainable work-life balance for physicians.  Solo practice is acceptable, practice in isolation is not.”

On the morning of Friday May 18, Greg was in pain and we needed to talk to someone regarding his symptoms. The message on the surgeon’s office phone told us that his office was closed for the day (it was a weekday), that the system didn’t accept voicemail messages, and that if it was an emergency to go to the ER.  Left with determining if increasing pain and swelling was an emergency, we relied on the advice of family and friends who work in healthcare and took Greg to the ER.  He was seen and released without anyone connecting with Greg’s surgeon.  The next morning, Greg collapsed in our family home. Had this standard existed and been met, we would’ve had access to the appropriate physician with direct knowledge of the severity of Greg’s case could provide best care and knowledge needed. 

Patients and their families cannot be left alone and neither can providers, true team based care includes everyone and in addition to the, clarification of “after hours care”, this new standard includes specifics on collaboration between colleagues during work hours around physician availability, work life balance and extended absences or holidays.   

“Although the standard is new, the expectations within it are not. The standard it replaces was not actively monitored by the College many physicians were not compliant, creating gaps in patient care with potentially serious results. As a result, the College has amended the standard and will be monitoring compliance by physicians.”

We applaud CPSA for listening to feedback they received, acknowledging that a gap existed, and owning the responsibility to address it. This update means a lot to us and we believe it will have a positive impact on patients and their families in Alberta.

Thank you Dr. Theman, and the Council of the College of Physicians of Alberta, who with the support of the Alberta Medical Association, the Health Quality Council of Alberta, Health Link, and the Government of Alberta have taken a welcome next step to improve the care for the patients of Alberta.

Full details on this announcement and related documentation are available on the CPSA website. In addition, information regarding complaints related to this or any other standard of practice can be found here.

Updates to After-hours Access to Care
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