Frequently Asked Questions

Since 2005, the Chinook Primary Care Network, located in Lethbridge, Alberta, has represented the collaboration between local physicians in the Southwestern Alberta area and Alberta Health Services. In total, there are over 150 physicians participating in the Chinook Primary Care network (CPCN), providing care to just over 174,000 regional residents.

Primary care is the first point of contact people have with the health system. It’s where patients receive care for their everyday health needs; illness prevention, health promotion, care for common illnesses and management of ongoing health problems. It’s the care provided by family doctors and other health care providers such as nurses, dietitians, mental health professionals, pharmacists, and others. For example, a patient with high blood pressure may not only see their family doctor, but also a nurse who will regularly monitor their blood pressure, and a dietitian for help with selecting the right foods to eat.

Primary Care Networks are formal arrangements between a group of family doctors and Alberta Health Services to jointly provide comprehensive primary care services to their patients. Both family doctors and health regions provide primary care services. By working together more closely, they can better coordinate services and improve access to primary care services.

Once Primary Care Networks are well established, we anticipate:
  1. More Albertans will be able to find a family physician 
  2. Primary care services (e.g., home care, public health, and other services)
    will be better integrated between doctors and the local health region 
  3. Patients will have access to a comprehensive range of primary care services within their Primary Care Network 
  4. There will be increased focus on health promotion, disease prevention, and care for patients with chronic diseases

Primary Care Networks may provide the following services:
  • Primary care services provided for patients 
  • Basic non-hospital care (ambulatory care) 
  • Care of complex health problems and follow-up 
  • Psychological counselling 
  • Chronic disease screening and prevention 
  • Family planning and pregnancy counseling 
  • Care for healthy children 
  • Pregnancy and delivering babies (obstetrics) 
  • Care during terminal illness (palliative) 
  • Care for chronic illness 
  • Elder care (geriatrics) 
  • Minor surgery 
  • Minor emergency care 
  • In-hospital or long-term facility primary care 
  • Rehabilitation 
  • Information management (ensuring patient privacy)
  • Community health and promotion (“population health”) 
  • Services that link primary care and other areas 
  • Access to laboratory and diagnostic imaging 
  • Coordination of: 
    • - Home care
    • - Emergency room services
    • - Long-term care
    • - Secondary care
    • - Public health

NO. A Primary Care Network provides all service responsibilities. However, individual physicians do not have to personally provide each service. If your family doctor does not provide a particular service, someone in or linked to the network will. This makes referral easier.

NO. Individual physicians will not be available 24/7. But Primary Care Networks will direct patients to after-hours care to meet their urgent health needs.

You still require contact with your family doctor. Your doctor would remain the first point of contact for the system and would decide when to refer you to a specialist. Most specialists do not take patients without a referral from a family physician.

Participation in Primary Care Networks is voluntary for physicians. Some physicians will choose to work within these Networks and some will not.

YES. Patients are free to make their own choices about the health care they seek out.