AMA survey: 42 per cent of doctors say they’re considering leaving Alberta

CALGARY — Contentious changes to the way they are paid are driving a sizable portion of Alberta physicians to consider practising elsewhere, according to a survey conducted by the Alberta Medical Association (AMA).

Of the respondents, 87 per cent of physicians said they will make changes to their medical practices as a result of the new billing framework announced by Minister of Health Tyler Shandro.

Among those, almost one half (49 per cent) said they have made plans or are considering leaving the province to work elsewhere.

Of the physicians surveyed:

  • 34 per cent said they may leave the profession or retire early
  • 48 per cent said they’re considering changes to how they offer services
  • 43 per cent said they would reduce office hours
  • 34 per cent said they would lay off staff

alberta Medical assocation

The survey comes after months of confrontation with Shandro, who the AMA criticized Friday, describing his behavior as an “extremely aggressive and inconsistent approach” to implementing the changes.

Those negotiations included the passage of Bill 21 that gave the province the right to break existing contracts with Alberta doctors and pre-approved the province to not honour the terms of any future agreements.

Shandro was criticized for events in February, when he terminated the province’s existing contract with doctors and announced a new funding framework – until public backlash resulted in the province temporarily backtracking on many of its new policies.

Tyler Shandro

In March, the AMA filed a Charter challenge against the government for bad faith bargaining and unilaterally terminating the right to arbitration for physicians, despite their designation as an essential service.

Monday, Shandro introduced Bill 30, which physicians view as another provocation and attack by the province on Alberta’s healthcare system.

“Physicians have reached a breaking point,” said AMA President  Dr. Christine Molnar. “I’m deeply troubled by where this is going and what it’s going to mean for medical practices and patients in the coming months.”

Province responds

The Alberta government filed a statement of defence Thursday in response to the AMA’s statement of claim that they negotiated in bad faith.

“Alberta’s economy has been devastated over the past five years and our budget has faced shortfalls as a result,” it said, in a statement issued by Shandro. “Our goal throughout negotiations was to simply hold the line on cost overruns while maintaining spending at the highest level ever. Alberta’s negotiators worked hard and in good faith to arrive at an acceptable agreement.”

The survey was conducted between June 24 and Juy 3, with a sample of 1,470 physicians from across the province. The results are considered accurate within 2.4 percentage points on either side.

Correction:

The story’s original headline indicated 49 per cent of doctors were considering leaving Alberta. The actual number is slightly higher than 42 per cent as the 49 per cent referenced is not a percentage of total respondents but the percentage of respondents who indicated they planned to make changes to their medical practices in response to the new billing framework.

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