Posted on May 25, 2020
ALBERTA RURAL HEALTH WEEK STARTS WITH DOCTORS FLEEING 18 COMMUNITIES
EDMONTON - Alberta Rural Health Week opens with Premier Jason Kenney deliberately chasing doctors out of 18 rural communities, and counting.
Since Kenney tore up the province’s contract with doctors in February and imposed a sweeping array of cuts on April 1st, doctors in Stettler, Sundre, Rocky Mountain House, Canmore, Cochrane, Okotoks, Peace River, Rimbey, Westlock, Three Hills, Bragg Creek, Drayton Valley, Cold Lake, Lacombe, Pincher Creek, Fort McMurray, Ponoka, and Claresholm has announced they will close their practice or resign from their local hospital. None of these doctors have changed their plans since disgraced Health Minister Tyler Shandro’s attempt to slow the crisis on April 24.
As recently as May 21, 115 obstetricians and gynecologists described the relationship between doctors and the provincial government as “plummeted into a poison well of distrust” in a letter to the health minister.
Hundreds upon hundreds of Alberta doctors have written to Kenney and their local MLA, and addressed packed town halls in their communities. Medical students have warned of an “exodus” from the province, and say opening a practice in Alberta would be a “reckless gamble.”
“After two months of crisis, and 18 rural communities losing doctors, we must conclude that chasing these doctors out of the province is the deliberate policy of Premier Jason Kenney,” said David Shepherd, NDP Opposition Critic for Health.”There are simple steps that could halt this crisis and he has chosen not to take them.”
The Opposition has laid out a three-point plan to stop the rural healthcare crisis: restore the previous contract with doctors on a temporary basis, enter arbitration to develop a new contract, and repeal the parts of Bill 21 that allow the government to tear up any new contract on a whim.
“It is a heartless and cruel approach to reduce provincial spending by chasing doctors out of rural communities and making it clear that medical students should follow them. Doctors have put themselves and their families in harm’s way during the COVID-19 pandemic. They spend years building their practices and building relationships with their patients. Doctors’ offices are significant rural employers. For Jason Kenney to tear down rural healthcare as a cost-saving measure is unconscionable.”