(BLACK PRESS file image)

LETTER: Rural doctors in Alberta

‘The Alberta Medical Association has successfully negotiated for Alberta Doctors for over 100 years’

Dear Editor,

I was pleased to see that your paper covered the issue of local doctors threatening to leave Rimbey. But the cuts to doctors in urban centres should concern rural residents too.

This is not all about money as the UCP would have you believe. Doctors have been asking for arbitration for months and were willing to take a pay cut, but wanted input into how it was done so that they could still provide the best possible care for their patients.

If you ran a business, and make no mistake medical clinics have staff and overhead as well as patient care to consider, how would you feel if someone with no background in your field told you how to operate it? Not only that, your input into how to use your operating budget would not be considered.

Our rookie health Minister Tyler Shandro is a lawyer whose only experience with health care that I know of comes from the fact that his wife is part owner of a private health insurance company. No conflict of interest is implied here as he was cleared of that by our Ethics Commissioner.

The Alberta Medical Association has successfully negotiated for Alberta Doctors for over 100 years, but was not and is still not consulted about changes to our health care. Why won’t our health minister work with them now? Does he really believe that he knows more about providing care than the organization that represents Alberta’s 14,000 doctors, resident physicians and medical students?

This past Friday Tyler Shandro announced that $81 million will be spent to recruit rural physicians and to retain them. Shortly afterwards his office released a list of rural communities, about 140, which would no longer be able to access those funds. Shortly after that he announced that this was all a big mistake and that there were no changes to that list. All on his own.

While the AMA announced that they are pleased to see a temporary reprieve for rural doctors, the fact that their contract with the government was torn up before the end of its term means that changes, cuts and even our minister’s ‘uncuts’ can be made again at any time. Cuts for urban doctors have not been addressed. Should we be surprised that our doctors are suing the provincial government? Alberta doctors are left with nothing but uncertainty as they risk their lives and their families in the middle of a pandemic.

It’s time for everyone to let their member of Parliament know that we stand behind our doctors and trust them to look after us without this kind of uninformed government interference. And Tyler Shandro should resign immediately as he has lost the trust of our doctors by refusing to deal in good faith with the organization that represents them.

Sincerely,

E. M. Schumacher

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