Posted on Oct 1, 2020


EDMONTON - New AHS documents, obtained through FOIP, show that Jason Kenney’s Health Minister Tyler Shandro repeatedly lied in the legislature about the growing number of Alberta doctors resigning from rural hospitals due to his ongoing war on their profession.

“These documents prove that Tyler Shandro lied to the assembly, lied to his colleagues who represent these rural communities, and worse of all, he lied to the people of Alberta,” said David Shepherd, NDP Opposition Critic for Health.

In the legislature on June 1, in response to questioning from Shepherd about nine doctors at the Athabasca Healthcare Centre publicly announcing their resignation, Shandro said “to withdraw or to change hospital privileges in this province requires a physician to file a formal application with Alberta Health Services with a 90-day notice period, which has not occurred in Athabasca.”

On June 4, NDP Opposition Leader Rachel Notley questioned Shandro about hospital resignations in Athabasca, Rocky Mountain House, Rimbey, and Pincher Creek, and Shandro responded “to withdraw or change hospital privileges requires a physician to file a formal application to Alberta Health Services giving 90 days’ notice, which has not occurred in the locations that she’s mentioned.”

However, a series of weekly AHS briefing notes show that doctors in Athabasca, Rocky Mountain House, Rimbey, and Pincher Creek, had all provided formal notice by April 22.

Weeks earlier, on April 5, AHS vice-president Dr. Francois Belanger produced a briefing note titled “Addressing the impact of AHS Medical Staff reducing or withdrawing services at AHS sites during the COVID-19 response.” Belanger wrote that doctors were considering resignation from AHS hospitals due to Shandro’s tearing up of their contract and cutting their pay. 

While the detailed response plan is redacted, the summary notes that “legal and emergency measures may be enacted if deemed to be necessary for the health and safety of Albertans.”

“Jason Kenney pursued a war on Alberta doctors at the height of a deadly global pandemic,” Shepherd said. “He forced them to abandon their hospitals to save their family practices, and in some cases to abandon this province altogether, and then Tyler Shandro repeatedly lied about it. It’s truly shocking that AHS was contemplating the use of emergency powers against doctors when all Jason Kenney had to do was stop attacking them.”

By early May, hospital doctors in 14 Alberta communities had given formal notices to AHS, although some were later moved from the “High Risk” list to “Medium Risk.”

Doctors in Pincher Creek agreed to delay their resignations in response to an emotional appeal from the community when it became clear AHS could not replace them. Doctors in Sundre resigned from their hospital and some are now leaving Alberta altogether. The released weekly briefing notes only extend to mid-June, and the current situation at many other hospitals, including major urban ones, is unclear.

“Tyler Shandro has proven himself to be utterly dishonest,” Shepherd said. “So I have written to AHS CEO Dr. Verna Yiu and respectfully requested that she provide Albertans with a comprehensive written update on doctor resignations at all Alberta hospitals. Clearly AHS has been tracking this crisis closely. Albertans have a right to the truth and we can’t trust the Jason Kenney government to provide it. This is a matter of grave and urgent public interest.”