The NDP claims Health Minister Tyler Shandro lied to Albertans when he said rural physicians were not signalling their intent to leave the province over his decision to terminate their master agreement.
The UCP government made the decision in February after negotiations between the two sides failed to lead to a new deal.
On June 1 and June 4, when the government was asked during question period to respond to doctors in nearly two dozen communities publicly announcing they planned on leaving — including in Rocky Mountain House, Athabasca, Rimbey and Pincher Creek — Shandro said there was no evidence of any exodus.
“To withdraw or change hospital privileges requires a physician to file a formal application to Alberta Health Services — giving 90 days notice — which has not occurred in the locations that she’s mentioned,” the minister said in the house on June 4.
Through a Freedom of Information request, the NDP obtained briefing notes provided to the government by AHS that outlined so-called at-risk communities, including the ones asked about by the NDP. The notes define high-risk communities as ones where physicians have given formal notice — written or verbal — of their intent to withdraw or reduce services.
“The minister clearly lied to the house, to his colleagues and to all the people of Alberta,” Opposition Health Critic David Shepherd said after releasing the documents.
“The minister chose to try to cover the impact of his policy decisions, [Premier] Jason Kenney’s continued war on doctors.”
The government insists Shandro did not lie and, in fact, claims the number of doctors leaving the province is actually quite small.
Numbers provided by health ministry press secretary Steve Buick from the Sept. 25 risk assessment shows 80 physicians across rural Alberta have given notification of intent to leave their practice due to the decision around the master agreement. Only 12 have given formal notice in three communities.
Buick added that in the second quarter, more physicians set up practice in Alberta overall (116) than left (21).
The NDP has asked AHS CEO Dr. Verna Yiu to provide Albertans with a comprehensive written update on doctor resignations at Alberta hospitals.
Watch below: Some Global News videos about rural health care in Alberta.