With the months-long dispute between the UCP government and Alberta’s physicians becoming more heated and increasingly bitter by the day, the time is fast approaching when ordinary Albertans may start finding themselves caught in the crossfire.
Whether Health Minister Tyler Shandro or the Alberta Medical Association (AMA) is prepared to back down remains an open question.
What is known is that this protracted dispute has the potential to negatively impact health care for patients of all ages in every community, including in this region.
Centering around the Kenney government’s decision to scrap the existing contract with the AMA and introduce a new funding framework, the dispute has already seen physicians in many communities withdraw services or announce plans to do so.
The AMA has also recently come out with survey results indicating that almost half of the province’s physicians have plans or are considering plans to look for work in other provinces.
Health Minister Shandro says the AMA needs to accept the new funding framework.
“They’ve never taken bargaining seriously,” said Shandro. “The AMA needs to stop playing games and start taking the economic crisis facing this province and this country seriously. It’s up to the AMA to decide what part they want to play in decision-making as we go forward.”
For her part, Dr. Christine Molnar, president of the AMA, calls the UCP’s action reckless and unreasonable.
“I know there is tremendous concern in the profession about how all this is going to impact patients, and doctors are taking steps to try to preserve patient care as best they can,” said Molnar.
Disputes between governments and health care professionals are nothing new in this province – or in other provinces for that matter.
What makes the current dispute particularly worrying is the fact that it is happening in the middle of a pandemic that has created new and potentially profound pressures on the health syste m.
Residents in this region and across Alberta might be forgiven for starting to have “tremendous concerns” too.
Dan Singleton is an editor with The Albertan.