Alberta doctor withdrawing services says any new aid won’t fix core trust issue

Alberta doctor withdrawing services says any new aid won’t fix core trust issue

Alberta doctor withdrawing services says any new aid won’t fix core trust issue

EDMONTON — One of numerous doctors giving up hospital work due to funding changes says even if Alberta delivers extra support for rural physicians, it doesn’t solve the underlying problem.

Dr. Samantha Myhr, who works in Pincher Creek, says the fundamental issue is that the government cancelled a master agreement with doctors earlier this year and imposed billing changes that physicians say threaten the viability of their practices, especially those outside big cities.

The government has since rolled back some of the changes. But Myhr suggests any help it may decide to give doctors can just as quickly be taken away, since the province passed a bill late last year giving it the power to do so.

“This government, or any government in the future, can just make changes with the stroke of a pen now,” Myhr said Thursday in an interview.

“We really need some stability in our health-care system, and the only way that we’re going to get that is with an agreement.

Health Minister Tyler Shandro is scheduled to announce further help for rural doctors at a news conference Friday.

Myhr said such support may work for some doctors trying to keep their doors open, but added: “I don’t know if it does change anything for us.

The Alberta Medical Association, which represents physicians, has filed a lawsuit against the government in which it demands fair and reasonable negotiations toward an agreement and the right to arbitration.

Myhr is one of the doctors at The Associate Clinic, which is attached to the Pincher Creek Health Centre, to announce this week that they are withdrawing some or all hospital services, including delivering babies.

Myhr said seven of nine doctors are withdrawing services while the other two are still deciding what to do. They have given 90 days notice to help get their patients through the COVID-19 pandemic

They are among physicians from around the province, including Stettler, Lac La Biche and Sundre, who are giving notice they are pulling back on services due to, among other things, billing changes.

Myhr said the issue includes the end of overhead payments to doctors who work in hospitals, where such payments are made by Alberta Health Services.

The Alberta Medical Association has criticized that as an ineffective, cookie-cutter approach and has pointed out that doctors in AHS facilities have a range of counter-balancing financial agreements in place.

Myhr said in her case the clinic is attached to the hospital and she moves back and forth between the two. She is now paid less for work she does in one part of the building compared with the other.

She said another problem is reduced government funding for medical liability insurance, which makes delivering babies out of reach financially in a rural setting.

The United Conservative government has responded to some concerns.

Shandro rolled back changes to extra payments, called complex modifiers, for longer patient visits.

He has also delayed a plan to end salary top-ups that were brought in when there were multiple health authorities. There are also new billing codes to compensate doctors for virtual and phone work during the pandemic.

David Shepherd, health critic for the Opposition NDP, said Shandro needs to repeal legislation allowing the government to dictate agreements with doctors, roll back all recent billing changes, and negotiate a new deal with doctors through binding arbitration.

Roger Reid, the UCP member for Livingstone-Macleod, which includes Pincher Creek, said in an email he is working with Shandro on the doctors’ concerns.

“I have shared the unique challenges we face in rural health-care delivery with the minister, and he has committed to responding in the near future,” said Reid.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 23, 2020

Dean Bennett, The Canadian Press


Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Alberta’s chief medical officer of health, Dr. Deena Hinshaw, announced the province surpasses one million COVID-19 tests Friday. (Photo by Chris Schwarz/Government of Alberta)
COVID-19: Central zone active cases up by 100 in last 24 hours

Most central Alberta communities under province’s enhanced measures list

file photo
Wetaskiwin, Maskwacis RCMP search warrant seize drugs; numerous charges laid

39-year-old Wetaskiwin man, Wayne Wiebe charged with 21 criminal code offences.

Alberta confirmed more than 1,500 COVID-19 cases Sunday

Central zone active cases slightly up

A nurse gets a swab ready at a temporary COVID-19 test clinic in Montreal, on Friday, May 15, 2020. Health Canada has reversed course on home test kits for COVID-19, saying it will now review applications for such devices. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson
Kyle Charles poses for a photo in Edmonton on Friday, Nov. 20, 2020. Marvel Entertainment, the biggest comic book publisher in the world, hired the 34-year-old First Nations illustrator as one of the artists involved in Marvel Voice: Indigenous Voices #1 in August. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
VIDEO: Indigenous illustrator of new Marvel comic hopes Aboriginal women feel inspired

Kyle Charles says Indigenous women around the world have reached out

Russ and Luanne Carl are sharing about their experiences of fighting COVID-19 this past summer.
photo submitted
Stettler couple opens up about COVID-19 battle

Luanne and Russ Carl urge others to bolster personal safety measures amidst ongoing pandemic

This 2019 photo provided by The ALS Association shows Pat Quinn. Quinn, a co-founder of the viral ice bucket challenge, died Sunday, Nov. 22, 2020, at the age of 37. (Scott Kauffman/The ALS Association via AP)
Co-founder of viral ALS Ice Bucket Challenge dies at 37

Pat Quinn was diagnosed with Lou Gehrig’s disease, also known as amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, in 2013

Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada David Lametti speaks with the media following party caucus in Ottawa, Tuesday, January 28, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Exclusion of mental health as grounds for assisted death is likely temporary: Lametti

Senators also suggested the exclusion renders the bill unconstitutional

Claudio Mastronardi, Toronto branch manager at Carmichael Engineering, is photographed at the company’s offices in Mississauga, Ont., Thursday, Nov. 19, 2020. As indoor air quality becomes a major concern in places of business, HVAC companies are struggling to keep up with demand for high quality filtration systems. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chris Young
Business is booming for HVAC companies as commercial buildings see pandemic upgrades

‘The demand right now is very high. People are putting their health and safety ahead of cost’

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau speak to the media about the COVID-19 virus outside Rideau Cottage in Ottawa, Friday, Nov. 20, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Long-awaited federal rent subsidy program for businesses hurt by COVID-19 opens today

The new program will cover up to 65 per cent of rent or commercial mortgage interest

Traffic crosses over the Lions Gate Bridge from North Vancouver into Vancouver on July 2, 2015. Motorists would have to pay a fee to drive into downtown Vancouver under the city's plan to slow climate change but one expert warns it could pose financial hardship for some. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Vancouver’s climate plan ‘first 10 steps in a journey of 10,000,’ says expert

Almost 40 per cent of Vancouver’s carbon pollution comes from vehicles

Alberta has 1,910 active cases of COVID-19 as of Wednesday. Red Deer is reporting five active cases, with 108 recovered. (File photo)
After COVID-related transplant delays, 16-year-old N.S. girl gets lung transplant

‘This is the difficult time now of seeing Tahlia in ICU hooked up to 15 IVs and sedated’

Most Read