AMA survey: 42 per cent of doctors say they're considering leaving Alberta
CALGARY -- Contentious changes to the way they are paid are driving a sizable portion of Alberta physicians to consider practising elsewhere, according to a survey conducted by the Alberta Medical Association (AMA), but Health Minister Tyler Shandro is questioning whether the grass will be greener outside the province.
Of the respondents, 87 per cent of physicians said they will make changes to their medical practices as a result of the new billing framework announced by Health Minister Tyler Shandro.
Among those, almost one half (49 per cent) said they have made plans or are considering leaving the province to work elsewhere.
Of the physicians surveyed:
- 34 per cent said they may leave the profession or retire early
- 48 per cent said they’re considering changes to how they offer services
- 43 per cent said they would reduce office hours
- 34 per cent said they would lay off staff
The survey comes after months of confrontation with Shandro, who the AMA criticized Friday, describing his behavior as an "extremely aggressive and inconsistent approach" to implementing the changes.
Those negotiations included the passage of Bill 21, which gives the province the right to break existing contracts with Alberta doctors and pre-approves the province to not honour the terms of any future agreements.
Shandro was criticized for events in February, when he terminated the province’s existing contract with doctors and announced a new funding framework — until public backlash resulted in the province temporarily backtracking on many of its new policies.
In March, the AMA filed a Charter challenge against the government for bad faith bargaining and unilaterally terminating the right to arbitration for physicians, despite their designation as an essential service.
On Monday, Shandro introduced Bill 30, which physicians view as another provocation and attack by the province on Alberta’s healthcare system.
"Physicians have reached a breaking point," said AMA president Dr. Christine Molnar. "I’m deeply troubled by where this is going and what it’s going to mean for medical practices and patients in the coming months."
The Alberta government filed a statement of defence Thursday in response to the AMA’s statement of claim that they negotiated in bad faith.
"Alberta’s economy has been devastated over the past five years and our budget has faced shortfalls as a result,” it said, in a statement issued by Shandro. “Our goal throughout negotiations was to simply hold the line on cost overruns while maintaining spending at the highest level ever. Alberta’s negotiators worked hard and in good faith to arrive at an acceptable agreement."
Shandro released a second statement Friday morning, following the release of the survey results, where he said it was "questionable" whether doctors would leave for other provinces where "they'd earn far less than in Alberta under our current funding arrangement," as the province is "committed to maintaing spending on physicians at $5.4 billion a year."
"The AMA needs to stop playing games, and start taking the economic crisis facing this province and this country seriously," Shandro said in Friday's statement. "We’re still offering to hold our spending at the highest level in Canada, and frankly that commitment is looking more generous by the day, considering the fiscal situation in this province and this country. But we stand by it. Now it’s up to the AMA to decide what part they want to play in decision-making as we go forward.
"Since Albertans should know the facts, the government is also exploring introducing physician compensation transparency, as exists for public servants in Alberta and physicians in a number of other provinces."
The survey was conducted between June 24 and Juy 3, with a sample of 1,470 physicians from across the province. The results are considered accurate within 2.4 percentage points on either side.
The story's original headline indicated 49 per cent of doctors were considering leaving Alberta. The actual number is slightly higher than 42 per cent as the 49 per cent referenced is not a percentage of total respondents but the percentage of respondents who indicated they planned to make changes to their medical practices in response to the new billing framework.