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Calgary geriatric physicians ending house calls following billing changes

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Changes by the province to physician billing codes are forcing a clinic to end home visits with senior patients.

The Redel Clinic has offices in Edmonton and Calgary, sending physicians who specialize in geriatric care into seniors independent living homes to see patients.

"It was a system that for the past decade was feasible," said Dr. Tanner Redel.

"But with recent changes, it's no longer really operable."

Redel says in April 2023, the billing code saw a 10 per cent cut, followed by another 10 per cent cut last month, with a third reduction expected in the coming months.

Shirley Bremault lives in a seniors home near Fish Creek Park and is a patient of the clinic.

She says she doesn't know where she will get care after August.

"So many people have mobility issues, they don't drive, some have cognitive issues. The service of a doctor coming and tending to their needs on site is so important that you can't put a price on that," Bremault said.

Redel says his average patient is 88 years old with about 12 health conditions.

While his doctors see only half the patients that a busy clinic would in a day, they are spending more time with each one and keeping them out of hospitals.

"They're not having to go to urgent care or emergency rooms that are overcrowded. ... That keeps them out of the hospital. How is that not saving the government money?" Bremault said.

Health Minister Adriana LaGrange said Thursday the billing was negotiated with Alberta doctors.

"We continually make sure that the rates are meeting the needs," LaGrange said during an announcement in Edmonton.

"If it's not working for physicians, then we definitely need to look at that."

Lynn Langmaid is another patient of the Redel Clinic and is just recovering from a hip replacement surgery.

"Doctors are easy to pick on because they don't go on strike," she said.

"They don't get pensions. They just quietly pack up and go elsewhere. And we're without."

She says she's angry about seeing her doctor pushed out of the business of home care and worries about her future care.

"Do our elected officials know what's going on? I mean, do they pay attention or are they just worrying about getting the next vote?" she said.

Redel says he believes the current practice maintains quality of life for seniors and prevents expensive hospital stays that stress the system.

"We’re talking about our parents and grandparents," he said.

"And one day, it's going to be you and me.

"We have got to ask ourselves what quality of care do you want for those who raised us?" 

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