Some physicians at Pincher Creek Health Centre say nothing has changed when it comes to the dispute between rural doctors and the Alberta government.
Many Alberta doctors are upset at Health Minister Tyler Shandro for ending the government’s master agreement with physicians in early 2020 and replacing it with what they call a dysfunctional top-down relationship rife with instability and distrust.
In April, some doctors from Pincher Creek announced they were withdrawing hospital services in 90 days due to changes the government made to the way doctors can bill.
Although the government did roll back some of the changes, nine physicians at The Associate Clinic, which is attached to the Pincher Creek Health Centre, maintained they were withdrawing due to the lack of stability from the government.
The doctors agreed in July to delay their withdrawal of services for another 90 days at the request of the community, mayor and town council, when it became clear Alberta Health Services could not replace them.
“Our original date was for July 31,” Dr. Sam Myhr said.
“The 90-day extension that our mayor and town council asked for… would be around Oct. 31.”
Since that time, Myhr says the mayor and council have asked the doctors to take a step back and have taken over communication with Health Minister Tyler Shandro.
“My understanding is that they have met virtually once with the minister, and at that meeting he promised to come out for a site visit.”
Myhr says they haven’t heard any plans for that visit yet.
“There’s no moving forward without some understanding of the unique challenges that rural [practitioners] face,” Myhr said.
Global News reached out to the health minister’s office to ask when that visit might occur. A spokesperson said the minister is waiting to hear from the mayor’s office about when that date can be set.
In the meantime, Myhr and the eight other Pincher Creek physicians are still set to withdraw hospital services at the end of the month and say they don’t know how AHS plans to replace them.
Myhr said the Pincher Creek physicians are still discussing how the withdrawal process will happen.
“We are struggling with sustainability. We are down two physicians from last year, and two others have given notice of retirement and change to locum status to pursue work in other provinces.
“We have also lost two recruits who planned to join us due to unilateral decisions by government.
“Furthermore, we are still waiting for implementation of the Ernst and Young AHS review which was due in August, but has not been made available to physicians in order to plan what services in our local facility may look like moving forward,” Myhr said.
— With files from Allison Bench, Global News, and Dean Bennett, The Canadian Press