Posted on May 20, 2020
KENNEY’S RURAL HEALTHCARE CRISIS EXPANDS AS FAMILY DOCTORS CLOSE PRACTICES IN PONOKA AND CLARESHOLM
EDMONTON -- Premier Jason Kenney’s war on Alberta doctors in the midst of a deadly pandemic has driven two more rural family doctors to close their practices.
“I plan to relocate my medical practice to another province in the fall,” wrote Dr. Paras Satija in a letter to patients. “This decision was not easy and, unfortunately, many of the government’s cuts and behaviours towards physicians in Alberta influenced that decision.
“I am a rural family physician because I strongly believe in the importance of community, building relationships, and taking care of each other. I take pride in my profession and continually strive to provide the best care to my patients. The provincial government’s attack on healthcare and its leadership -- through both actions and ideology -- has made it untenable for me to continue to live and work in Alberta.”
Dr Satija goes on to say the Kenney government has “implemented cruel measures that unfairly target the most vulnerable members of Alberta’s population,” including rural Albertans.
Meanwhile, the only female family physician in Claresholm is also closing her practice.
“The recent government cuts have been very destabilizing to my rural family medicine practice,” Dr. Roisin Dempsey wrote in a letter to her patients. At a January meeting with the Claresholm Town Council, Dr. Dempsey had warned that their clinic was operating at 100 per cent capacity and the loss of even a single doctor would seriously impact their ability to cover calls and deliver patient care.
The closure of the Ponoka and Claresholm practices follow similar announcements in Stettler, Sundre, Rocky Mountain House, Canmore, Three Hills, Bragg Creek, Drayton Valley, Cold Lake, Lacombe, Pincher Creek, and Fort McMurray.
In an opinion piece published in the Edmonton Journal today, three Alberta medical students wrote that Health Minister Tyler Shandro tore up Alberta’s contract with doctors in February, ignored data and expert advice, and insinuated that doctors are entitled and dishonest.
“While Kenney holds press conferences deflecting criticism, other provinces are already recruiting our mentors,” they wrote. “To start a practice now seems like taking on a mortgage without knowing the rate or if full payment is due next month. With all the other uncertainties in the world, it seems reckless to gamble on a career in Alberta.”
“Jason Kenney is putting rural Alberta families at risk,” said David Shepherd, NDP Official Opposition Critic for Health. “He is chasing established doctors out of their communities across the province, and sending a clear message to Alberta medical students that there is no future for them in their own province.
“This crisis could be resolved easily by restoring the previous contract, entering arbitration to develop a new contract, and repealing the parts of Bill 21 that allow the government to tear up any future contract,” Shepherd said.
“Jason Kenney has failed to act, and failed to dismiss Shandro. It’s clear now that this crisis in rural healthcare is the deliberate policy of his UCP government.”