Posted on Apr 28, 2020


EDMONTON -- An Edmonton pediatric clinic that serves some of Alberta’s most medically fragile children will be forced to divert some of their young patients to the emergency room, if UCP Health Minister Tyler Shandro moves forward with the cuts he imposed on doctors after tearing up their contract in February. One parent calls the reduced access to his son’s clinic “terrifying.”

The three doctors at Garneau Pediatric Associates serve many young patients who have spent significant time at the Stollery Children’s Hospital for the treatment of serious conditions. The clinic employs 11 nurses and 10 administrative staff, which means the doctors can interact efficiently with a high number of patients each day, and reliably accept same-day appointments for children who need to see their pediatrician urgently. The doctors are also available on-call to patients 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Among the cuts Shandro imposed is a cap on the number of actions each doctor can take to care for a patient in a given day. This restriction will make the Garneau Pediatric Associates current model of practice impossible.

“These cuts will impact the way we are able to provide care to our patients,” said Dr. Rehana Chatur, one of the pediatricians at Garneau Pediatric Associates. “We will have to lay off staff and reduce the number of nurses working per day which means physicians will have to spend more time with each patient which translates into less time available to see same-day visits. These patients will then have to seek care at medicentres or emergency departments which translates into more expensive care.”

“In this time of economic uncertainty, physicians should share in the financial burden being experienced by all Albertans,” Chatur said. “Our concern comes from the manner in which the province ended negotiations and unilaterally decided where cuts should be made to healthcare. The province has shown a lack of respect to physicians and a disregard for the services provided by physicians to the health of Albertans, ironically during a time when physicians, along with other healthcare providers, are risking their lives on the front line during this pandemic.  The Alberta Medical Association made suggestions to decrease all physician billing codes across the board which would have saved the province money without directly targeting primary care providers like family physicians and pediatricians.”

Lindsey Kemp’s son George is one of the children cared for at Garneau Pediatric Associates.

“Being the parent of a medically complex child is not something anyone ever plans,” Kemp said. “If I was told I would be spending over a year and a half, off and on, living in a hospital, while my son needed not one but two heart transplants, and also would be diagnosed with Crohn’s, I would not have believed it. But here we are, and because of our experience, we have been so fortunate to realize the incredible health care that has been provided for us in Alberta. 

“The doctors we now have taking care of George are world-renowned. Dr. Chatur, Dr. McGonigle and the staff at Garneau Pediatrics provide incredible care for all of their patients. We can make appointments for the same day for any concern, major or minor and because of this, we can be treated for illness right away instead of waiting for an appointment or going into an already congested ER which could be catastrophic for a patient with a compromised immune system. 

“These cuts will not only severely compromise our son’s care and other medically fragile kids like him, but also burden the hospital and emergency rooms,” Kemp said.

Bryan Noble’s son Ryland is also a long-time patient of the clinic.

“We have been connected with Garneau Pediatrics for six years due to Ryland’s complex medical needs,” Noble said. “They have provided us with 24 hour a day medical support when required. They have been able to provide us same day appointments when unexpected medical needs come up. This has created much-needed support and confidence for our family to get us through very difficult days that our family has encountered.

“Limiting access to clinics that specialize in medically fragile children is terrifying.  It puts the kids at risk. Visits to these facilities are often extremely time sensitive.  Having a team who knows Ryland, knows what Ryland’s normal is, and trusts mom and dad when they say something is off, is invaluable. These relationship build over time and cannot be replicated by going to another clinic without that history,” Noble said.

“These kinds of terrible outcomes are happening because Tyler Shandro failed to consult with healthcare professionals,” said David Shepherd, NDP Official Opposition Critic for Health. “The doctors at Garneau Pediatric Associates have built an innovative practice model that is delivering an extraordinary level of primary care for some of Alberta’s most medically fragile children. Tyler Shandro’s cuts are going to tear that all down. All of this could have been avoided if he had simply remained at the negotiating table with doctors and learned how frontline healthcare actually works.

“The government can fix this today by taking up the Opposition’s simple three-point plan. Restore the previous contract with doctors on a temporary basis, enter independent third-party arbitration with doctors, and repeal the sections of Bill 21 that allow the government to tear up any future contract with doctors.”

Rakhi Pancholi is the MLA for Edmonton-Whitemud, where the Kemp family lives.

“When Lindsey reached out to me, I was appalled that this was happening to George and his family,” Pancholi said. “Tyler Shandro is putting these children’s safety at risk. As a parent, I can’t imagine the stress this is causing during a time that is already so hard on everyone. Shandro should know better. He must listen to these families and put a stop to this today.”