Hundreds of Edmontonians are choosing private healthcare over the public system, at a cost they say is worth the extra money.

Copeman, Edmonton’s first private healthcare clinic, brings together a number of health specialists including a family physician, dietician, kinesiologist, and neuropsychologist, all under one roof.

Becoming a member of the clinic costs $4,200 per adult for the first year, with the price dropping in subsequent years.

Lori DaSilva and her family says the price is worth the service.

“We’re just a middle class family but we decided that’s where we’re going to pool our funds to do because we think that’s a very important part of our lives, our health,” DaSilva said.

DaSilva’s family became frustrated with the public health care system and chose to go the private route. They say the perks are worth the price.

“It is very frustrating to go to a doctor’s appointment that you’ve booked two weeks in advance and you sit there for two hours waiting to see the doctor,” DaSilva said.

“Here at Copeman, that does not happen at all. You come in, say ‘hi, how are you,’ and within five minutes you’re in to see your doctor. That’s what I like.”

DaSilva’s son Brandon decided to take a year off school to focus on health.

He was recently diagnosed with ADHD and says through the public system, he was on a long waitlist to talk to a specialist.

After becoming members of the private clinic, Brandon received help for his ADHD, among other medical concerns.

“I’m getting lacrosse injuries taken care of, psychological ADHD issues for school and different stomach issues because I have horrible eating habits,” Brandon said.

“It’s the perfect one-stop shop.”

The yearly fee allows the DaSilva’s to use the clinic’s services as many times as they want throughout the year, with minimal wait times and what they say is a more inviting and comforting atmosphere than what the care they received in the public system.

“Other doctors offices you might feel apprehensive about going, it’s crowded, there’s a lot of people, it’s uncomfortable, it’s busy, you just feel like another number in there,” Brandon said.

“What I like about (the private clinic) is you’re made to feel like a person, not just a chart number,” DaSilva said.

The Edmonton clinic opened in May and currently has 300 clients.

There are also locations in Vancouver and Calgary.

Rick Tiedemann, executive director of Copeman Edmonton, said the clinic focus on preventative health and gives its specialists more time to work with clients.

“Our goal here is really not to have people deal with acute health episodes but really to prevent them in the first place,” Tiedemann said.

“What we’ve essentially done is blend private and public healthcare.”

Tiedemann points out many people using the public health care system also end up paying extra for certain health services including physiotherapy or going to a chiropractor.

“That’s private health care,” he said. “There are a lot of people who are probably unknowingly participating in private health care.”

Dr. Colleen Friesen says she sees about 10 patients a day compared to the 30 she used to see when she worked in a public clinic, which makes a huge difference in how she works and how she’s able to help clients.

“That allows me more time to be able to spend with the patient,” Friesen said.

“It is so rewarding.”

Health Minister Fred Horne says the province received the centre when it first opened in Calgary a few years ago.

“At that time there was a review and we checked to see whether there was any conflict with provincial or federal law and there wasn’t,” he said.

“I don’t have any concerns about it at present…We’ll sort of keep a watch on things to make sure nobody is contravening the law and I have no reason to believe that’s the case today.”

Horne wants Albertans to feel confident the government is doing what it can to ensure the public system is strong.

“Our focus as a government is making our publicly-funded health system strong, as strong as it can possibly be,” Horne said.

“That involves spending $17 billion of their taxpayer money into things like family care clinics and primary care networks.”

Friesen said she’s received very positive feedback from her clients at Copeman, and the DaSilvas say the private route is worth the extra money.

“What do we spend nowadays going for coffee and everything else?” DaSilva said.

“That’s very cheap for your health is the way I look at it and you do really get good care.”

With files from Carmen Leibel