Alberta NDP call for emergency debate in regards to doctors leaving Alberta

On July 13th, the provincial NDP held a small conference in regards to an emergency debate about the mass exodus of doctors to places outside of Alberta.

“On Friday Albertans received some very alarming news,” NDP Opposition Leader Rachel Notley spoke, “according to a survey conducted by the Alberta Medical Association 87% percent of Alberta doctors who were surveyed will be changing their practice by reducing their hours, closing their clinic, resigning from their local hospital or retiring early.”

Notley informed that it was found 42% of doctors were also considering leaving Alberta entirely, or have already begun their plans to do so. Notley expressed concern that almost half of the doctors surveyed were considering leaving the province.

“These are the consequences of Jason Kenney tearing up the province’s contract with doctors and engaging in an ongoing, running smear campaign against them during a deadly global pandemic. Now while other jurisdictions are celebrating their doctors, Jason Kenney has suggested Alberta doctors are lazy, greedy, and dishonest. He’s cut their pay, imposed hundreds of pages worth of new paperwork, all of this during a public health emergency.”

Notley states that other provinces are taking advantage of Albertan doctor’s dissatisfaction by actively recruiting doctors to a province where ‘they say they have a government that respects their proficiency’. Notley expressed that the situation could become worse in the coming months.

“Right now we have Tyler Shandro disputing a quarter billion dollar lawsuit with Alberta [Medical Association]. He’s planning to restrict where new doctors can practice in Alberta by imposing restrictions into their practice IDs.”

Notley continues by saying this will inspire medical students to start their careers elsewhere, with less restrictions on their mobility. This, ontop of Bill 30, is thought to be set up set to ‘punish outspoken doctors’, or frustrate them enough to have them move elsewhere in the country.

“But today, we do know it’s another attempt to weaken the relationship between doctors and their patients, and introduce a new power center into our health care in the form of corporate employees. So if times are tough now, they’re about to get tougher.”

Notley expressed that the exodus of doctors hurts the most vulnerable in communities first, such as seniors, Albertans living with chronic conditions, and ‘basically anyone who needs to see a doctor’.

The NDP plans to press the government for an emergency debate in regards to the amount of doctors leaving Alberta for less restricted provinces, and Notley hopes they would be able to repeal Bill 21— a bill which had been passed last fall and repealed the AMA’s master agreement in February of 2020, allowing for privatization— and reach ‘easy solutions’ to the current problem that the Alberta government faces.

“We will be calling for emergency debate in the [legislature] and we will be pressing the government for a response to this alarming news. Albertans need to see this response; they need to hear the government explain themselves. We must have this conversation, we are in the middle of a global pandemic! And the legislature is the place for us to have these conversations. If we call on the UCP to allow for this debate to occur, this afternoon.”

When asked by the Trending 55 Newsroom as to ‘what started this’, Notley responded that the government went wrong in that they did not ‘care about or cherish our system of public health’.

“They don’t care about ensuring that all Albertans— regardless of the income they earn— have access to high quality public healthcare when and where they need it. Because they don’t care they were very casual and cavalier about picking a fight with doctors, breaching their word with doctors, ripping up the agreement with doctors, and then embarking upon a smear campaign in an endless fight with doctors. So it pretty much goes back to their fundamental beliefs around the value of public health, but of course, after that, it goes back to when they passed Bill 21 last year, which allowed the minister to essentially walk away from legally binding agreements and break his word, and the word of the government when it came to respecting their partners and providing healthcare. That being, among others, the doctors.”

In a previous press release, the NDP sought multiple witnesses to a public testimony and questioning of Premier Jason Kenney. Some of those witnesses included the Premier himself, Minister of Health Tyler Shandro, Minister of Justice Doug Schweitzer, Minister of Labour Jason Copping, JBS Canada President David Colwell, Cargill Chairman and CEO David MacLennnan, Revera President and CEO Thomas Wellner, Retirement Concepts CEO Azim Jamal, and Extendicare CEO Dr. Michael Guerriere.

When asked about when the NDP hoped to hear from any of the witnesses, NDP Health Critic David Shepherd stated that unfortunately, on July 12th, the government was looking for independent, third party reviews, and the members of the Special Committee of the Review of the Public Health Act have refused to let the NDP call the Premier or the ministers.

“I think we have much to offer our review of that public health act,” stated Shepherd, “and indeed, how it’s available and what’s available for use. And indeed some of the changes that they brought into that act in the midst of the global pandemic; so far government members have refused. We are hoping they’ll get as part of this independent third party review that at least in there will be opportunity for some questions to be asked of those ministers and the premier himself and indeed that the public will get to be part of that process and that there is an opportunity for a public inquiry with they will answer some of the decisions.”

The full conference is available below.

-Ridley Reiser, Trending 55 Newsroom