Posted on Aug 11, 2020


EDMONTON - Family doctors in Alberta continue to close their practices in response to ongoing UCP hostility, and some are leaving the province altogether.

“Alberta families are losing their doctor in the midst of a deadly pandemic because of Jason Kenney and Tyler Shandro’s ongoing campaign of smear and harassment against them,” said David Shepherd, Official Opposition Critic for Health.

On Sunday, Dr. Cody Thomson of Drayton Valley informed his patients he will close his practice and move to British Columbia, a choice he called “incredibly difficult.”

“I never imagined I would be sitting here and writing this letter. I was born in the community and have lived the majority of my life here. I have spent the last seven years getting to know many thousands of patients and their loved ones,” Thomson wrote.

“The professional reasons are specifically due to the current state of affairs in Alberta between its physicians and the United Conservative Party under Premier Jason Kenney and Minister Tyler Shandro. Most of you know should be aware but for those who are not, Mr. Kenney and Mr. Shandro have together created a very unstable and unhealthy healthcare system in Alberta. This is not about physician pay or compensation, as they would have you believe. What Mr. Kenney and Mr. Shandro have done is create a continual stream of fear and uncertainty for us working in healthcare.”

Thomson listed several examples, including Shandro tearing up the province’s contract with doctors, cancellation of good faith billing that supported doctors in caring for vulnerable Albertans, the chaotic back-and-forth over billing codes, the chaotic back-and-forth over rural services, and plans to replace doctors’ professional regulator with a politicized one.

“They have created changes in the healthcare system that will allow for progressive privatization and I fear this will lead to American style health care delivery, whereby only those with money and privilege will receive timely or quality care. Finally, there is work in progress by the Minister of Health Tyler Shandro, to enact rules in our colleges and in our hospitals that will prevent doctors from being able to leave their posts unless a replacement physician is found. Considering all of the above destructive changes, I fear that finding physicians to replace us will become impossible, and thus I feel forced that I must leave now before I am unable to,” Thomson wrote.

Meanwhile, Dr. Trevor Byers informed his patients that he is leaving family medicine after 20 years of practice in Leduc to focus on specialized work in geriatrics, a choice he calls “truly frustrating.”

“I had not anticipated leaving family medicine at this point in my career, but due to government changes to primary care over the past number of months, I feel a change is necessary for my own survival in medicine,” Byers wrote. 

“They used Bill 21 to terminate our master agreement. They have vilified physicians publicly in the news media, and on social media. With Bill 30, they have paved the way for corporate delivery of care. It is clear to me that they intend to make it impossible for family physicians to survive running their own clinics, essentially forcing them to work for large for-profit care providers. I cannot work in such a system. I have sent multiple letters detailing my concerns to MLA Brad Rutherford and Health Minister Tyler Shandro, but it is clear that they have no intention of deviating from this plan.”

The NDP Official Opposition is renewing its calls for Shandro to be dismissed as Health Minister, and for the government to return to the negotiating table with the Alberta Medical Association to develop a new binding contract.

“Kenney and Shandro are chasing family doctors out of Alberta at the same time they’re scheming with UCP donors, lobbyists and property developers to push American style corporate healthcare,” Shepherd said.