CALGARY -- Virtual health care in Alberta is here to stay.

The province announced Monday that effective immediately, virtual patient visits and video calls introduced during the pandemic will become a permanent fixture in the province.

"Virtual care has been an important part of our COVID-19 response, protecting patients, doctors and clinic staff by providing an alternative to office visits that avoids the risk of contact with the virus," said health minister Tyler Shandro.

"Virtual care gave physicians the flexibility to decide on the best way to provide care during the challenging times.

"These visits have proved their value, so we're making them permanent, to allow physicians and patients to keep using them as appropriate while being fairly compensated."

In-person physician visits and specialist care will continue, with virtual services offered where appropriate.

Tyler Shandro

The rates that physicians will be paid vary depending on specialty and service, and are the same as current in-person rates, the province said. That's a departure from when virtual visits were first announced, at pay rates that physicians said paid 50 per cent of what they billed for in-person visits.