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Repeated pay cuts could be ‘fatal’ for in-home doctor care in Alberta

Click to play video: 'Repeated pay cuts could be ‘fatal’ for in-home doctor care in Alberta'
Repeated pay cuts could be ‘fatal’ for in-home doctor care in Alberta
WATCH: Some Alberta seniors are raising concerns about reduced access to in-home doctor care. The threats come as some doctors of a mobile clinic have either left or given notice after repeated pay cuts for their visits. Sarah Offin explains – May 21, 2024

Mobile doctors are increasingly hard to come by in Alberta following a series of pay cuts by Alberta Health for in-home visits.

The Fish Creek West United Active Living retirement community has benefitted by regular visits from mobile doctors for about two years.

“He comes once a week, on Tuesdays, but we make an appointment. He doesn’t see us all unless we have a concern,” said Shirley Bremault. She has started a petition, gathering more than 150 signatures from those in her facility concerned about an upcoming loss in care.

The Redel Clinic started in 2019 as a mobile home care clinic for seniors, servicing more than a dozen seniors’ facilities in Calgary and Edmonton.

Click to play video: 'Alberta walk-in clinics, family doctors say soaring costs forcing them to close'
Alberta walk-in clinics, family doctors say soaring costs forcing them to close

“My average patient is 88 years old and without home visits, most of them would not be able to see a family doctor nearly as often as they would need,” said clinic owner and family doctor, Tanner Redel.

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But he said in April of 2023 and April of 2024, his doctors saw payments for these types of visits cut by about 1o per cent each year, with more expected in the future. He said doctors are receiving about 22 per cent less for their services when were offered in-office versus in-home.

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And that’s leading many to opt out of the mobile service option.  Redel said more than half of the doctors with his clinic have left or given their notice.

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Physicians to receive funding based on patient roster size

For those in the UAL in Fish Creek, that means their access to a family doctor is now in jeopardy.

“We just want, as seniors, to stay healthy and live in our residences and have that doctor care… so we don’t end up in long-term care at taxpayers’ expense,” said Bremault.

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As part of a statement to Global News, Alberta’s ministry of health said, “[t]his rate change for physicians was agreed to by the Alberta Medical Association, as part of our annual collaborative process for looking at rates for services insured under the Alberta Health Care Insurance Plan.”

It went on to say that “physicians are private business people who choose how they want to structure their practice. This may include moving to a different service delivery model rather than home visits, which still allows them to provide care in a seniors’ facility.”

It also said the ministry is continuing to collaborate with AMA on developing a new family physician compensation model.

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Rural Alberta doctors say health minister’s announcements not enough

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