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Sundre doctors should reconsider plans, says MLA

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Jason Nixon, who is the MLA for Rimbey-Rocky Mountain House-Sundre, says this is not the time for division. File photo

SUNDRE – Moose & Squirrel Medical Clinic physicians should reconsider their plans to withdraw their privileges from the Sundre hospital acute care and emergency department effective July 1, says MLA Jason Nixon.

“I would encourage them to continue to work through the process,” said Nixon, who is the MLA for Rimbey-Rocky Mountain House-Sundre and the minister of Environment and Parks. “The place to deal with this is around the table. My view is that now is not the time, from both a pandemic perspective as well as from a financial perspective (to withdraw privileges).

“Now is not the time for division. Now is the time for all of us to work together to figure out how our province is going to get through this.”

The eight physicians at the 4,000-patient clinic announced their plans on April 2, days after the Kenney government moved forward with restructuring of doctor pay and funding frameworks.

One of the Sundre physicians, Dr. Jena Smith, said at the time, “Instead of working with us as the people who know the system best, the government has chosen to dictate which cuts will be made and where and the effect those will have on your health care.”

In a follow up on the clinic’s Facebook page, physicians said they will “continue to work in the Sundre hospital until July 1 when the COVID-19 pandemic surge is expected to have passed.”

In announcing plans to withdraw privileges from the Sundre hospital, Dr. Rob Warren, another physician at the clinic, said, “I don’t know whether Jason Nixon didn’t know what the cuts were going to be or whether he did know and lied to me.”

Asked if he lied to Dr. Warren, Nixon said, “No, I did not.”

The government now has plans in to replace the Sundre physicians if need be after July 1, he said.

“My understanding from the minister of health is that now that they have a date when some physicians will be leaving, they will be taking steps to replaces those physicians as of July 1 inside the town of Sundre,” he said.

“If the physicians chose to step away, the health minister and premier have been very clear that there will be no reductions or cuts to the Sundre hospital as a result of any physicians walking away. We would immediately take step to bring in replacement physicians to provide those services.

Asked if those replacement physicians would come from other area hospitals such as in Olds, Nixon said they could come from anywhere in the province.

“I’ve talked to the minister of health on that because one of my concerns is to make sure we weren’t moving doctors from places that need doctors, and he says there are large portions of the province where they actually have a surplus of doctors,” he said.

In their recent Facebook update, the Sundre physicians outlined some of their post-July 1 plans.

“Once we are no longer full time staff at the Sundre hospital, we will be introducing extended services through our clinic,” they said. “We will be doing procedures in office that in the past may have occurred in the emergency room.”