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Letter: War with doctors no accident

Tell MLAs to get back to the table with doctors

Re: Letter: Tough doctor discussions and hard decisions: health minister

At some point, you have to acknowledge that Jason Kenney’s war with doctors is no accident, it’s deliberate.

Jason Kenney and the UCP are at war with Alberta doctors in the midst of a deadly pandemic.

Kenney tore up their contract, cut their pay, imposed hundreds of pages of new paperwork, and pursued a smear campaign to suggest doctors are greedy, lazy, and dishonest.

All this while doctors are putting themselves in harm’s way to keep us safe from COVID-19.

According to a survey this month, 42 per cent of Alberta doctors are seriously considering leaving Alberta altogether, or have already started plans to do so.

Think about that for a moment. Nearly half of all doctors have been pushed to the point where they are seriously thinking about closing their practice, packing up their families, saying goodbye to their friends and community, and moving to another province.

For a while, Health Minister Tyler Shandro tried to claim doctors weren’t leaving their hospitals. Then he tried to claim that he had replacement physicians lined up to take their place.

But in a letter, Shandro told doctors he intended to “prohibit an entire group of physicians from withdrawing at the same time.”

Forcing doctors to practice against their will is a desperate and bizarre move from a minister who has completely lost control of the situation.

Doctors have resigned from their hospital or closed their practice in Sundre, Rocky Mountain House, Crossfield, Canmore, Cochrane, Okotoks, Peace River, Rimbey, Westlock, Three Hills, Bragg Creek, Drayton Valley, Cold Lake, Lacombe, Fort McMurray, Ponoka, and Claresholm.

In Pincher Creek, hundreds of residents staged a rally in their cars and trucks to protest the loss of the community's doctors. The mayor openly wondered if there would be any doctors left by the end of the summer.

Right now, we’re debating Bill-30 at the legislature. The bill is another attempt by Kenney to divide doctors, and weaken their relationships with patients by introducing corporate clinics.

This crisis is not an accident. Chasing doctors out of Alberta is the deliberate policy of Jason Kenney to help pay for his $4.7-billion corporate handout. Rural families and businesses are paying the price to line the pockets of corporate shareholders on Bay Street and Wall Street.

If Jason Kenney truly has any interest in protecting rural healthcare, there's a simple solution. He could go back to the table with doctors, listen to their proposals on how to contain costs without hurting Albertans' access to care, and develop a new contract through arbitration. Then he should repeal the law he passed that lets him tear up any future contract with doctors.

Communities invest huge amounts of time, money and energy in recruiting and retaining doctors. Rural doctors spend years building their practices and caring for their neighbours. I am truly appalled to see Jason Kenney tear down decades of work in the space of a few months.

Doctors are leaving Alberta. That’s a fact. I urge readers to contact their MLA and tell them to get back to the table with doctors before this crisis does permanent harm to rural Alberta.

David Shepherd,

MLA for Edmonton-City Centre and Opposition Critic for Health