Posted on Mar 26, 2020


EDMONTON -- In the midst of a deadly pandemic and a public health emergency, Alberta’s front-line family doctors are still being attacked by UCP Health Minister Tyler Shandro.

In a March 25 letter, the President and the Executive Director of the Alberta College of Family Physicians warn that doctors are “having to consider letting go of essential employees” and “sacrificing their own well-being” due to the coronavirus pandemic. Minister Tyler Shandro tore up the province’s contract with doctors in February, and the new billing arrangements he imposed “will not sufficiently support the service levels required.” 

“Clinics are at imminent risk of closing their doors,” wrote president Vishal Bhella and executive director Terri Potter, despite the province announcing some new virtual billing codes.

“It’s outrageous that Minister Shandro is continuing to harass and attack the frontline healthcare professionals who are working tirelessly to protect the lives of Albertans,” said David Shepherd, NDP Opposition Critic for Health. “Minister Shandro is creating chaos and dangerous distractions for family doctors when he should be supporting them in every way possible.”

The college is calling for Minister Shandro to provide sufficient funding for family doctors to replace in-person consultations with virtual or tele-health options; provide sufficient personal protective equipment for doctors, patients and staff; and to stop undermining primary care with badly thought-out surprises like the Telus Babylon debacle.

“Redirecting scarce funds to private enterprise focusing on episodic care will undermine health outcomes in the province,” wrote Bhella and Potter.

Many family physicians have also reported large numbers of seniors trying to secure a driver’s medical exam before Minister Shandro de-lists them as part of his tearing-up of the contract.

“Even if he won’t cancel this attack on seniors, he should absolutely delay it until after the danger has passed. Forcing vulnerable Albertans into crowded doctors’ waiting rooms is absolutely the wrong thing to do right now,” Shepherd said.

“We are in the midst of a public health emergency, with schools and businesses closed and millions of Albertans staying home to do their part. And yet the Minister of Health, Tyler Shandro, is actively undermining these efforts. I don’t know whose advice he is listening to right now, but he should start listening to Alberta’s frontline healthcare professionals immediately.”