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  • Writer's pictureStephen Lewis

The health care fix too obvious to implement

The solution to Canada's primary care access gap is for communities to grow their own roster of nurse practitioners (NPs).

Published Jun 21, 2024 Saskatoon StarPhoenix


Few clinics provide the inter-professional team-based care essential to an aging population and other higher-needs patients. sas

You’re sick of reading and I’m tired of writing that Canada’s primary care access crisis dooms prospects for fixing the health-care system.


One in five adults has no regular source of care. Few clinics provide the inter-professional team-based care essential to an aging population and other higher-needs patients. Many get referred to specialists, creating backlogs, long waits, and avoidable health breakdown that lands them in hospitals and nursing homes, straining capacity and driving up costs.


No one disputes this. There is also an unfortunate consensus on what to do about it: Pay family doctors more, open new medical schools, license more international medical graduates. It is unfortunate because these solutions are reruns that merely double down on the errors of logic and history.


There is a solution — not the solution to everything, but the only credible path to a primary care home for all who want one. It is not as elusive as the Higgs Boson, the “god particle” proposed in 1964 and found 48 years later. It is a practical, ready-for-prime-time solution with a half-century track record of success.


The solution is for communities to grow their own roster of nurse practitioners (NPs) to fill the primary care capacity gap. NPs are trained across Canada, typically in two-year master’s degree programs open to registered nurses (RNs) with a minimum of three years of experience. Most offer distance education and local preceptorships that allow students to train mainly in place.




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