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

Doctors

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

Just Posted

File photo
A man walks into a Cargill meat processing factory. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes
Alberta meat plant, site of COVID-19 outbreak last year, to get vaccination clinics

Nearly half of the 2,200 workers at the Cargill facility contracted the novel coronavirus and two employees died last April

Grand Chief Wilton Littlechild, left, Grand Chief Arthur Noskey, centre and Chief Aaron Young during a meeting with First Nations Chiefs and Grand Chiefs in Edmonton. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Alberta must retract Forest Act before it becomes law: Treaty 8 grand chief

‘We are asking (the government) to pull this back and consult with us,’ says Arthur Noskey of Treaty 8 First Nations

Alberta’s largest school board says it will not use the United Conservative government’s draft elementary school curriculum pilot this fall. (Ben Hohenstatt/Juneau Empire)
Calgary school board says no to United Conservative draft school curriculum

Other school boards including Edmonton Public, Edmonton Catholic, Elk Island Public, Wild Rose, Medicine Hat Public, Medicine Hat Catholic and Lethbridge Public have also rejected it

Alberta reported its highest number of daily COVID-19 cases since December 16 on Friday. (NIAID-RML via AP)
Alberta reports 1,521 additional COVID-19 cases, 674 new variant cases

Daily case total the highest since mid-December

A cross made out of hockey sticks at a makeshift memorial is silhouetted against the setting sun at the intersection of a fatal bus crash near Tisdale, Sask., on Monday, April, 9, 2018. A virtual tribute is planned to mark the third anniversary of the Humboldt Broncos bus crash. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
VIDEO: Humboldt Broncos team to be honoured on third anniversary of fatal bus crash

16 people died and 13 were injured when a semi-trailer ran a stop sign into the path of the hockey team’s bus

Chief Public Health Officer Theresa Tam speaks during a technical briefing on the COVID pandemic in Canada, Friday, January 15, 2021 in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Canada’s ICUs see near-record of COVID-19 patients last week as variant cases double

Last week, Canadian hospitals treated an average of 2,500 patients with COVID-19, daily, up 7% from the previous week

Vancouver’s park board general manager issued a new order Friday restricting tents and other temporary structures from being set up in Strathcona Park after April 30, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Vancouver park board issues order to restrict tents in Strathcona Park

The order issued Friday restricted tents and other temporary structures from being set up after April 30

Stettler’s own Renegade Station is kicking off the spring season with a brand new single - to be released April 9th. (Photo submitted)
A brand new single is on the way from Stettler-based band Renegade Station

Free Free Free hits all streaming platforms on April 9th

Foreign Affairs Minister Marc Garneau waits for a virtual meeting to begin with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken in Ottawa, Friday February 26, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Ottawa mulls exempting more workers from Canada-U.S. border shutdown: Garneau

Canada-U.S. border has been closed to people travelling for vacations and other non-essential visits since March 2020

A worker smooths concrete at a construction site in Toronto on January 16, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Cole Burston
Economy adds 303,000 jobs in March, unemployment rate falls: Statistics Canada

Figure released this morning outpaced the 259,000 gain seen in February

FILE - This file photo dated July 10, 1947 shows the official photograph of Britain’s Princess Elizabeth and her fiance, Lieut. Philip Mountbatten in London. Buckingham Palace says Prince Philip, husband of Queen Elizabeth II, has died aged 99. (AP Photo/File)
Prince Philip, husband of Queen Elizabeth II, dies at 99

Philip spent a month in hospital earlier this year before being released on March 16

Campbell River city council will continue its 2020 policy of waiving late fees and NSFs. (Mirror File photo)
53% of Canadians teetering the brink of insolvency: survey

A majority of Canadians admit they’re just $200 away from not being able to pay their monthly bills

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney listens as the 2021 budget is delivered in Edmonton Alta, on Thursday, Feb. 25, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Kenney faces criticism from doctors, his own caucus, over new COVID-19 health rules

Alberta now has more than 10,000 active cases, about 43 per cent are variants

Most Read