As part of their efforts to balance the budget in time for the next election year, especially after cutting corporate income taxes, the UCP government cut over $6 billion from health care funding.
As well, Tyler Shandro, the health minister, refused to negotiate with the Alberta Medical Association to develop a new contract with doctors in the province. Then he unilaterally cancelled their contract and all negotiations, forcing them to take significant wage cuts.
And now the AMA is suing the government.
However, not all doctors are responding to the disrespect with a lawsuit. Some are reducing the services they provide. Some are even leaving Alberta entirely.
According to the AMA, 400 clinics in Alberta are laying off support staff or considering closing. Here are some of them.
At least 1 doctor in Bragg Creek is closing her practice. She will be leaving the province, citing a lack of feeling valued and supported by the government.
In a letter to the health minister, 85 emergency room doctors in Calgary expressed concern about the effect clinic closures will have on demand in their ERs.
A doctor in Canmore announced that she was relocating her medical practice to Calgary. She claimed fee cuts could run as high as 40% for some doctors in Alberta, which made it hard for her to manage her high overhead and deal with recruitment challenges.
One clinic in Cochrane is closing down. At least one doctor from that clinic may be leaving the province, and the others will work out o other clinics in the short term.
Crowsnest Pass apparently lost 4 doctors.
A surgeon and his colleagues in Edmonton will be shutting down the clinic they run at Grey Nuns Community Hospital.
A paediatric clinic in Edmonton claims that newly introduced patient caps means that they will need to send some patients to the emergency room—instead of the clinic—for service.
Lac La Biche
In Lac La Biche, 10 of the 11 doctors there filed a letter of resignation with provincial and local healthcare officials saying that they wouldn’t be practicing at the local hospital after 31 July 2020. One of the doctors is the hospital’s chief of staff and managing doctor. They cited government funding changes as the cause for their resignation, saying that the cuts amount to eliminating a third of their salary.
A rural family practice in Lacombe laid off 13 employees, citing government cuts to health care. This clinic had a partner resign, and lost two locums who were going to fill in for sabbaticals next year. The locums, recent Alberta residency grads, have decided to move to BC instead.
In a letter to the health minister, 22 emergency room doctors in Lethbridge expressed concern about the effect clinic closures will have on demand in their ERs. After-hours walk-in clinics in Lethbridge have closed.
In another letter to the health minister, 4 palliative care physicians in Lethbridge wrote that recent cuts will hinder their ability to travel to rural communities and will limit home visits.
A maternity clinic may lose some of their 10 physicians. They cite fee changes as the reason they’re considering not practising at this clinic anymore.
In a letter to the health minister, 22 emergency room doctors in Medicine Hat expressed concern about the effect clinic closures will have on demand in their ERs.
In another letter to the health minister, 8 palliative care physicians in Medicine Hat wrote that recent cuts will hinder their ability to travel to rural communities and will limit home visits.
A family physician left Okotoks, citing unsustainable overhead costs . Two others are considering leaving Alberta.
An oby/gyn in Okotoks started the process to relicense in British Columbia as an exit strategy for leaving Alberta.
A clinic in Peace River has stopped providing family medicine. The other clinic in the town has a waiting list of over 800 patients.
The Associate Clinic in Pincher Creek announced that 9 doctors there were discontinuing hospital-based services as of July.
A doctor at the Battle River Medical Clinic in Ponoka announced yesterday that she’s leaving her practice at the end of June. She didn’t cite the recent cuts as the reason for her leaving—saying that “an opportunity came up to do this training and the timing felt right”—however, she was one of hundreds of doctors last month who signed a letter asking for Jason Kenney to reverse funding cuts.
A second doctor announced that he’s shutting down his practice to move out of province.
A Red Deer doctor is leaving his practice to work in British Columbia. He also cited the provincial cuts.
A Red Deer surgeon is moving to British Columbia.
In Rimbey, 2 of the 6 doctors there announced that they plan to leave the province once the COVID-19 pandemic is over. One of the doctors said the last straw was the cuts to after-hours hospital fees. Previously, he was paid $38.03 for each of the 20–30 patients he saw during a 24-hour shift. That works out to about $31.69 an hour. The new fees are $31 per patient, which works out to about $25.83 an hour. He also cites reduction in insurance reimbursements as a reason for leaving, which used to cover most of the more than $8,000 he had to pay annually. The other doctor, who was trying to build up her clinic into a full scope rural practice, cited the changes to the complex modifier, which allowed doctors to spend more time with patients in an effort to adequately address their health challenges, particularly if they had multiple issues concurrently. Three other Rimbey doctors are considering leaving.
Rocky Mountain House
Rocky Medical Clinic will require patients with multiple issues to come in for multiple appointments, due to changes to complex patient changes. This clinic is short 4 family physicians, but that number will increase to 6 by the end of the year due to retirements; one of those retirements is a direct response to the government budget cuts.
As well, 7 physicians at Rocky Medical Clinic have given their notice to Alberta Health Services that after 90 days, they will no longer be working at the hospital.
Some doctors in St. Paul plan to pull out of emergency room service, and some clinics will close.
Stettler saw 7 physicians there, who work at two clinics in town—Stettler Medical Clinic and Heartland Medical Clinic—say that because of the government cuts, they could no longer afford to practice in the emergency room at the local hospital. There are only 10 physicians in the town.
Because of the changes to insurance I covered above, none of the physicians practicing in Sundre are insured for obstetrical services a Sundre Hospital. A family medicine resident from the University of Alberta, who was supposed to train in Sundre has to look for other options because of the closure of services.
Eight doctors at the Moose & Squirrel Medical Clinic in Sundre cancelled not only obstetrical services but also acute care and emergency department services at the Sundre hospital.
A family doctor at the Kneehill Medical Clinic in Three Hills is closing his practice at the end of June.
Several doctors has withdrawn his privileges from the Westlock Hospital and went on to imply that they might be leaving Alberta, as well.
In addition to all the vacancies these closings will create, for the first time in Alberta’s history, it has over 20 residency positions open.
Finally, the Edmonton Zone Medical Staff Association tweeted out a press release yesterday, saying that out of 300 rural doctors recently surveyed, 47% said that they’ve “been forced to decrease their hospital-based services by July”, with more indicating they’d likely need to do so beyond July.