Comprehensive health care services are available in Fort McMurray, as they are throughout Alberta.There is a hospital and two medical centres in the urban area of Fort McMurray offering a variety of community health and specialist services, and there are family doctors accepting new patients, so residents can access primary care promptly in Fort McMurray.
With a growing population, health care providers in the past have been challenged to meet the rapidly growing need for services. However, in a recent study and review of provincial healthcare, the emergency department at the Northern Lights Regional Health Centre showed some of the shortest wait times in the province due to improvements achieved over the past few years to enhance patient care.
About the Health Care System
Health care in Wood Buffalo is coordinated and delivered through Alberta Health Services, Northern Region, part of the Province's health care system. The Northern Lights Regional Health Centre in Fort McMurray is the main regional health centre and hospital. It offers acute and continuing health care, including 24-hour emergency services, laboratory and x-ray services, mental health services, general surgery, ambulatory care, rehabilitation, home care, speech language and community health.
While access to family doctors is currently excellent, with over ten family physicians accepting new patients, it can be difficult to access specialist services. Visiting specialists, including doctors specializing in oncology and cardiology, are filling some of the gaps. Rehabilitation services in general are accessible through the Northern Lights Regional Health Centre. People who need specialized health services, such as critical-care or pediatric services, should research their specific needs and how to meet them before moving to Fort McMurray. Travel to Edmonton might be required for some speciality services.
- Northern Lights Regional Health Centre (Hospital)
- Visitor Guide to Northern Lights Regional Health Centre
- Community Health Centres (Facilities in rural communities in Wood Buffalo)
- Wood Buffalo Primary Care Network (List of family doctors and pediatricians)
- Fort McMurray Public Health Building (Family care including immunizations, dental health, etc.)
Paying for Health Care Services
Many health services here are free for people who are covered by the Alberta Health Care Insurance Plan (AHCIP). People who do not have an AHCIP card must pay for health services. Newcomers to Alberta or Canada can apply for the AHCIP 3 months before leaving their place of origin.
New residents of Alberta who move from another province or territory in Canada can use Alberta health services until they are eligible for health insurance in Alberta. The province of origin will cover most health care costs for the month of the move plus the first two months in Alberta if the person had health care coverage in the province of origin. If you are moving from Quebec this is not true except for emergency situations. Quebec residents will have to pay for medical services and then apply for reimbursement.
- Alberta Health Care Insurance Plan (AHCIP)
- Application for Health Care Insurance
- Benefits and Services covered by the AHCIP
Ambulance ServicesNot all services are covered under the Alberta Health Care Insurance Plan (AHCIP). For example, emergency and ambulance fees must be paid by the patient. Because the region is so large and remote, emergency services can be expensive, especially air ambulance if that is needed.
- Benefits and services covered by the AHCIP
- Emergency Health Services (Ground and Air Ambulance)
- Emergency (ambulance) fees in Wood Buffalo
Steady ProgressThe Municipality and health care system are working together and have made excellent progress solving health care issues in the region.
For example, the Government of Alberta has committed funding to renovations and expansion of the emergency department, scheduled for completion in 2012. The Northern Lights Regional Health Centre measures emergency department wait times by percentage of patients treated and discharged in under four hours. In 2009-2010, patients were treated and discharged in under four hours 88 to 90% of the time (an improvement from the average wait time the previous year, which saw 83 per cent of patients discharged in under four hours).
Innovative programs and attractive financial supports are bringing in more specialists. Over the past five years, nearly 20 new specialist doctors have come to the community. The Fort McMurray Public Health Building opened recently, and there are plans to build a second Continuing Care facility. The community also wants to work to improve health centres across the region to improve access for people who don't live in Fort McMurray.
Oil sands companies with remote work sites have worked in partnership with Alberta Health Services to provide high quality occupational health, primary health and medical services on site. Employees can access health care services and deal with health issues when they're on the job, including health and wellness education.