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Column: Rural health dispute needs to end


With the bitter and acrimonious dispute between the Kenney government and Alberta’s rural physicians continuing to be make headlines, residents cannot be blamed for feeling increasingly anxious and concerned about the situation.

With residents of all ages in every rural community relying on health care for their very wellbeing, the dispute is nothing but bad news for the community at large.

Whether the dispute will lead to a catastrophic breakdown of rural health services, particularly in the area of emergency services, remains anyone’s guess.

What is known is that unless solutions can be found, and found without undue delay, sick and injured Albertans may end up caught in the crossfire.

As part of the months-long dispute, rural doctors in numerous community have announced plans to withdrawal some services, including in emergency rooms. The Kenney government has countered that it will bring in replacement physicians to fill any gaps.

Al Kemmere is the president of the Rural Municipalities of Alberta, which represents 69 municipalities including Mountain View and Red Deer counties. The association is calling for the sides to come together and settle their differences before things spiral further out of hand.

The bottom line is that without continued high quality health care rural Albertans would be placed at significant risk, he said.

“We are not taking a position as far as who is right and who is wrong,” Kemmere, who is also a Mountain View County councillor, said in an interview. “Our position is that rural health care is of the utmost importance, both from an individual health point of view but also from a community point of view.

“We need to have the two sides in this dispute get back together and have a rational conversation and come up with a solution that will allow rural health care to be retained as much as possible into the future. We need to have a solution come forward.”

Alberta needs this protracted and increasingly ugly rural doctor-Kenney government dispute to end without further delay.

Dan Singleton is an editor with The Albertan.