We understand both the magnitude and the gravitiy of the current COVID-19 pandemic and want you to know we fully support you. We are determined to have your voices heard and are reaching out directly to the Honourable Premier Jason Kenney and Health Minister, Tyler Shandro. Below is a copy of the letter we have sent on behalf of all of you.
Premier Jason Kenney,
and Health Minister Tyler Shandro
420 Legislature Building 10800-97 Avenue
Edmonton, AB T5K 2B6
Dear Honourable Premier Kenney and Minister Shandro:
RE: Health care reform in Alberta needs to focus on quality patient care
Alberta is facing a health crisis of historic proportions. It is time for the government to cease its ill-considered and harmful health care changes. Imposition of physician payment changes that have been shown to increase hospitalizations and emergency department visits amid a pandemic is reckless and irresponsible.
All organizations, physicians, nurses, public and private health care workers, and government should be working together to prepare a well-thought-out robust plan. Instead, we are faced with uncertain payment methods for hospital and ER work, unfeasible and unfair reimbursement for virtual care, a halt to lay off nurses until after they and the physicians of this province provide care for patients with COVID-19. Health professionals across this province are working full out to provide care in this crisis. There will be doctors and nurses who will die as a result.
Please stop your ideological approach to health care reform and support the system and your professionals with sound, reasoned collaboration with those who are working at the coalface.
The Alberta College of Family Physicians (ACFP) represents more than 5,200 family physicians, family medicine residents, and medical students across Alberta. We are a proud voice for family physicians and family medicine in Alberta and can no longer sit idly watching this government fracture the foundation of health care. Alberta is a leader in adopting the vision of the Patient’s Medical Home—a vision that supports and provides timely access to high quality, comprehensive, team-based care that is centred around the patient. Alberta has made strides in the implementation of the PMH using Alberta Health’s Primary Health Care Strategy as a jumping off point.
We are extremely disappointed with the government’s decision to terminate negotiations and the physician services agreement, showing a lack of respect for the process and for the profession. Furthermore, the way the government has handled criticism of its actions is more discouraging. Instead of listening to family physicians, it has taken upon itself to antagonize them by offering an assault of mistruths and lack of understanding while terminating additional health care contracts and launching initiatives such as the recent TELUS Babylon App that will eviscerate primary care and family medicine.
As noted in the PEER Evidence Pertaining to a Healthy Primary Care Workforce, approximately 70% of health care delivered in this province is delivered by a family physician, and evidence shows that patients who see a regular family physician are less likely to use emergency services. As well, access to primary care services providing comprehensive patient care improves patient outcomes and decreases health care costs. Investing in family physicians and primary care will save money.
Our members have shared with us that the UCP’s proposed changes will negatively affect how health care is delivered, threatening patient care. Our members are demoralized and struggle with what is ahead, yet they will continue to provide the best care they can for their patients. Eventually practices will close, and family physicians will leave our province.
We ask you to pause termination of the physician pay contract and implore you to reinstate it. This call for action comes during a global pandemic. Also, we ask that you continue negotiation proceedings, in good faith, to ensure that all physicians can be on the frontline knowing with certainty that their government has both their welfare and patient care in mind.
Vishal Bhella, MD CCFP
Alberta College of Family Physicians
ACFP Board of Directors
Terri Potter, Executive Director