Posted on Mar 12, 2020


EDMONTON – Even UCP MLAs are begging Health Minister Tyler Shandro to back down on his war with doctors as the UCP’s changes “obliterate” physician recruitment and retention in rural Alberta.

In a column published Thursday by the Calgary Herald, one UCP MLA spoke out under the condition of anonymity. The MLA is quoted as saying that “rural MLAs are worried,” and “we’re hearing a lot of concern from our constituents and doctors, so we’re raising the issue every chance we get.”

“We’re now at the point where UCP MLAs are pleading with their own government to stop this attack and save doctors in their communities. Meanwhile, doctors are rolling back hours, pregnant women are being told to go to Edmonton to deliver their babies, and the Health Minister is busy trying to explain himself on Twitter,” said David Shepherd, Alberta NDP critic for Health.

“If the Minister won’t listen to doctors or municipal leaders, he should at least start listening to his own colleagues and back down on these forced changes. It’s hurting doctor’s offices and primary care clinics across this province, but it’s rural Alberta families who are paying the highest price.”

On Wednesday, doctors from Bonnyville, Cold Lake, Lac La Biche, and St. Paul hosted a public meeting to discuss the impact to their communities. It was reported that neither Bonnyville-Cold Lake-St. Paul MLA Dave Hanson nor Fort McMurray-Lac La Biche MLA Laila Goodridge attended.

Local doctors and Bonnyville Mayor Gene Sobolewski have been raising the issue for weeks. Sobolewski  told Lakeland Connect that “it’s going to obliterate, literally obliterate our potential for doctor recruitment”. MLA Hanson “declined to comment until he understands how the issue will affect rural communities.”

The meeting in Bonnyville follows a similar town hall hosted by Airdrie physicians on Tuesday, where they shared concerns about shorter patient visits and longer wait times at hospitals and emergency rooms. Both Airdrie MLA Angela Pitt and Airdrie-Cochrane MLA Peter Guthrie were invited but did not attend.

Agriculture Minister and Innisfail-Sylvan Lake MLA Devin Dreeshen was also invited to a public forum hosted by Innisfail physicians on Wednesday. His office declined, citing “government business meetings”.

“These MLAs voted to give the Health Minister the power to rip up the contract with doctors. They can’t keep claiming ignorance. The UCP MLAs need to stop hiding from their constituents, stop hiding under condition of anonymity, and start standing up for Albertans publicly. That’s their job,” Shepherd said.