Posted on May 29, 2020


EDMONTON - As Alberta Rural Health Week comes to a close, Premier Jason Kenney’s rural healthcare crisis expands into its 19th community with doctors resigning en masse from the Athabasca hospital.


In a letter released today, all nine of the doctors in Athabasca write that they have formally notified AHS of their intent to withdraw from the hospital in order to preserve their family practices. The doctors also stress they will stay at the hospital through the COVID-19 crisis.


“There is no guarantee the government has the replacement physicians they say they do, and Athabasca may then be left with no doctors with privileges to provide these services,” warned the doctors. They go on to write that the rural healthcare crisis “would not have occurred if months of physician feedback had been listened to. Unfortunately the silence continues. Even our MLA, Mr. Glenn van Dijken, has not responded to our attempts to reach him over the past several weeks. At this point we expect dismissal from the Health Minister, but we would hope our local representative would care about the crisis facing his constituency.”


The Athabasca announcement follows mass resignations or clinic closures 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.


“Another rural community is losing access to medical care because of Jason Kenney’s war on doctors,” said David Shepherd, NDP Opposition Critic for Health. “This is a dangerous sign for the future of Athabasca, given that the Kenney government is considering 77 rural emergency departments for closure.”


The Athabasca doctors also denounce Kenney and Health Minister Tyler Shandro for their “well-designed public smear campaign against doctors at precisely the moment we need to be working together.”


“Kenney’s smears on rural Alberta doctors, suggesting they are lazy, greedy, and dishonest, are appalling,” Shepherd said, “and it’s the depth of hypocrisy for him to make these false claims while his political party is exploiting a loophole to grab cash from a federal wage subsidy meant to prevent struggling businesses from failing. 


“It’s heart-breaking to hear that these doctors have not only lost hope in having their voices heard by the premier or his health minister, but even by their local MLA, Glenn van Dijken,” Shepherd said. “This UCP government is chasing doctors out of rural Alberta as a deliberate cost-cutting exercise. It’s unconscionable.”