Health Minister Shandro announces changes to enhance rural health care

Grant Boone
April 27, 2020

These included changes to physician pay when doctors performed shifts in local hospitals, initially refusing to include pay for overhead costs at their clinics.

Rural doctors will now be exempt from changes to overhead billing that some say led to reduced service in hospitals, Alberta Health Minister Tyler Shandro said Friday.

The province imposed billing changes that physicians say threaten the viability of their practices.

Shandro should have taken more of the blame during Friday's news conference, instead, he blamed the victim. Shandro said this will allow doctors to earn up to an additional $26,500.

Urban doctors will also be allowed to do the same pending a review on whether that policy is necessary in large centres.

"The intention was always to increase the nominal fee", Shandro said, referring to the pay for hospital rotations for rural doctors.

The announcement adds to other recent rollbacks on Shandro's March changes.

The move comes after pushback by the Alberta Medical Association, a doctors' advocacy group.

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The latest data this week on people being treated for COVID-19 in the five boroughs continued to be stable or decline. We are going to build something new and something better, de Blasio said it will be fair and for everyone.

Earlier this year Shandro did just that, cancelling the master agreement while simultaneously implementing the controversial changes, some of which he is now rolling back.

The AMA has filed a lawsuit against the government demanding fair and reasonable negotiations toward an agreement and the right to arbitration.

Christine Molnar, head of the AMA, said in a statement that Shandro's announcement was a positive step during the COVID-19 pandemic but said, "We need long-term solutions to real challenges, not one-time ad hoc decisions".

"As of March 31st, the government has decided that the care we provide in hospital is worth less than that same care given in clinic - even though for us they are under the same roof". Rural doctors will be permanently exempt.

In other words, the UCP government has seriously damaged the trust doctors have in their employer.

Dr. Samantha Myhr, part of the Sustainability Group and one of seven doctors giving up hospital privileges in Pincher Creek, said the announcement doesn't change her mind.

In response to questions about whether the ministry did not understand the implications of the original changes, Shandro said that after consultations, "I don't believe that they went wrong". "At no point, in the last few months, did the minister come out and offer clarity", said Shepherd.

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