06/13/2012 09:31 EDT | Updated 08/13/2012 05:12 EDT

Manitoba government to train more family doctors to ease ER pressures

WINNIPEG - Manitoba will add more family doctors every year — starting this fall — in one of a series of measures designed to ease pressure on clogged hospital emergency rooms over the next five years.

Premier Greg Selinger led a delegation of MLAs and senior health care officials Wednesday in the announcement to jump-start the health care system.

The goal is to ensure patients not only have doctors to see but that they’ll been seen by a doctor or a nurse practitioner within 48 hours of calling for an appointment.

The promise was a major plank in the NDP’s platform in last fall’s election campaign.

Selinger said adding more training positions for doctors is a key to making good on the promise.

In addition to new training positions for family doctors, the province is rolling out three new training positions for nurse practitioners this fall.

These professionals can prescribe some prescriptions and provide basic services.

The province is also signing up more doctors with private practices to take part in networks with other health care professionals, making referrals at lot easier on patients by centralizing how their care is co-ordinated.

As of 2010, there were 180,000 people in Manitoba without a family doctor, and even people with a family physician had to wait weeks for an appointment.

The initiatives announced Wednesday will cost the system $5.7 million this year, according for provincial figures.

The dean of family medicine at the University of Manitoba medical school applauded training for family doctors.

“This is something that is very much needed,” Dr. Jamie Boyd said. “It will make a significant difference in how we can provide all the things the premier has mentioned.”

(Winnipeg Free Press)