Canmore doctor closing practice due to changes in physician fees

Canmore doctor closing practice due to changes in physician fees
WATCH: Dr. Cathryn Zapf said the Alberta government's recent announcement outlining changes to how doctors get paid is forcing her to close her office in Canmore. As Michael King reports, the government insists the changes won’t impact patient care.

For 28 years, Dr. Cathryn Zapf has been treating patients in both the U.K. and Canada.

But after three years in Canmore, the family physician said she will be shutting down her practice in June.

She said the closure is a direct result of changes from the provincial government to how Alberta doctors are paid.

“The government is planning really quite deep cuts,” said Zapf. “My business here will not be feasible.”

READ MORE: Alberta government ends master agreement with doctors; new rules coming April 1

The Alberta government ended its master agreement with Alberta doctors in February and is putting 11 changes into effect in April.

Among the changes are complex modifiers: fees doctors charge if they spend more time with patients.

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The changes would mandate doctors to spend more time with patients with complex needs.

Now, Alberta doctors can charge extra once they spend more than 15 minutes with a patient.

Until April 2021, the 15-minute complex modifier can still be charged but will pay $9 instead of $18.

After April 2021, doctors will have to spend at least 25 minutes to get the extra compensation.

READ MORE: A closer look at changes Alberta is making to doctor rules, fees

Zapf said this would limit the amount of time she spends with patients.

“My typical consulting time is 20 minutes and I really like to get to the bottom of people’s problems,” said Zapf. “Very often the first problem that people come in with is not where the pathology really lies.”

Health Minister Tyler Shandro insists the changes will not impact patient care.

“[Alberta] physicians are going to continue to be among the highest-paid physicians in the country,” said Shandro. ”We have all the faith in the world that we’re going to be able to continue to be able to provide services to patients throughout Alberta.”
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Zapf said she plans to stay in Alberta by joining a larger practice in Calgary to cut down on overhead but added she’s worried about both patients and doctors in Canmore.

“The appointment times will be considerably shorter,” said Zapf. “They’ll have less of a service and more stressed doctors.”

The Alberta Medical Association said it is prepared to fight the provincial government to protect compensation for Alberta doctors.