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Five Sundre doctors closing their practices, moving over dispute with province

'This has been an incredibly tough decision,' says one Moose & Squirrel Medical Clinic doctor

SUNDRE - Five doctors from one clinic in Sundre are closing their practices in eight months and moving out of the province, citing recent provincial government decisions as the reason why.

The Moose & Squirrel Medical Clinic has announced that Dr. Danielle Diaz, Dr. Mark Diaz, Dr. Alanna Bowie, Dr. Carly Crewe and Dr. Anthony Willmot have provided written notice that they will be leaving the community and province at the end of April 2021.

In letters addressed to patients dated Sept. 4 and posted on the clinic’s Facebook page, the physicians called their decisions to leave difficult and lay blame with the provincial government and decisions the United Conservative Party (UCP) has made.

“The relentless lies and power hungry policy changes, the carelessness with which the UCP puts profits ahead over people and the clear lack of respect for educated professionals such as nurses, teachers, physicians in this province has made it somewhere I can no longer practice medicine or raise my young family,” wrote Dr. Carly Crewe.

The local doctors, and many others throughout the province, have for months expressed concerns in light of not only the provincial government’s unilaterally imposed changes, but also summarily ending the master pay agreement that has created an atmosphere of uncertainty and unease among physicians.

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Health Minister Tyler Shandro previously said in February when announcing the government’s decision to tear up the contract, that the move was necessary because of a stalemate with doctors regarding how to reduce costs and improve services.

Doctors at Moose & Squirrel Medical Clinic gave notice months ago about their intention to withdraw their hospital services on July 1.

In his letter to  patients, Dr. Willmot said when he first arrived in Sundre to practice in 2018, he envisioned it a place where he would remain to practice and raise a family for a very long time

“With evidence that the vision and goals for health care provision in Alberta now appear to be so different from my own I am sadly seeing the need to relocate outside of the province to continue my practice of medicine,” wrote Willmot.

He called out the UCP for rejecting further negotiation and arbitration and says physicians “have been the target of an extensive gaslighting campaign.”

Willmot also listed recent cuts to services that “work in direct opposition of what our healthcare system should be trying to achieve.”

Dr. Danielle Diaz and husband Dr. Mark Diaz also confirmed in their letters that they are leaving the province.

“This has been an incredibly tough decision which was made after many months of reflection. My family has considered Sundre our home and it was our intention to live here for the foreseeable future,” wrote Dr. Danielle Diaz .

The departing physicians all said they either have been or will be actively helping to recruit new physicians to the community.

Their departure leaves three physicians still practising at Moose & Squirrel, including Dr. Michelle Warren – the Alberta Medical Association’s president-elect -- who runs the clinic with her husband Dr. Rob Warren.

The town is also served by seven physicians working out of the Greenwood Family Physicians clinic.