Posted on Jun 12, 2020


EDMONTON - Healthcare professionals say that a recent decision by UCP Health Minister Tyler Shandro to ban them from ordering publicly-funded diagnostic scans is creating red tape, delaying medical care for Albertans, and actually driving up costs for taxpayers.


As of March 31st, any diagnostic imaging such as x-rays, CT scans or MRIs, ordered by a chiropractor, physiotherapist or audiologist, is no longer covered by the provincial health insurance plan.


This means patients are compelled to pay out of pocket for these scans. If they can’t, they must be referred to a physician who can order an insured scan, but also has to bill the province for the initial appointment and the follow-up appointment before sending the scans results back to the original allied health professional. 

“This change adds barriers to access and also creates out-of-pocket costs for patients, which is difficult to understand given the Alberta economy,” said Dr. Wendy Coburn, owner of One Village Family Chiropractic Community. “This is the wrong move for Albertans, and chiropractors are significantly concerned about the unintended consequences for patients.”

“In 2012, Alberta became a leader in innovative health care delivery by permitting the ordering of certain types of diagnostic imaging by physiotherapists, funded by the province,” said Jeffrey Begg, a physiotherapist who has been practicing for 23 years. “This followed a general trend in health care away from a physician-centred model to a patient-centered model, and harnessed the skills of Alberta’s highly trained allied health professionals. This resulted in reduced wait times for diagnosis, and reduced need for physician visits.  The efficiency of care for bone and joint injuries and pain went up significantly in Alberta.”


Shandro’s policy change will mean more visits to doctors’ offices, walk-in clinics, and even hospitals, said Begg.


“As a result Albertans have lost the gains made in health care service delivery and efficiency, and we have moved back to a physician-centred model.  As the efficiency drops, the cost of care will rise, not fall. This is anti-Alberta, and the definition of red-tape.”


Physiotherapy Alberta College and Association and the Alberta College and Association of Chiropractors prepared an analysis for Shandro in February.  Between them, members of the two professions ordered about $8 million worth of imaging in 2018-2019. They argue that by adding two physician appointments or a hospital visit into the process for each scan, the province will end up paying $18 million. The delays may also drive more Albertans to seek relief through pain medication, a widely documented pathway into addiction.


“This is a serious mistake by Tyler Shandro,” said Chris Nielsen, NDP Opposition Critic for Red Tape Reduction. “His policy change is preventing Albertans from getting the diagnosis and treatment they need in a timely manner, leaving them waiting and worrying in pain. On top of this, he’s creating unnecessary new work for physicians and unnecessary new costs for taxpayers. It’s absurd. 


“The Minister of Red Tape Reduction doesn’t understand his own bills, but I’m sure I could explain this problem to him. I’m calling on him to walk down the hall to Tyler Shandro’s office and tell him to abandon this awful mistake,” said Nielsen.