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Alberta doctors send out 'SOS' over state of family medicine


Alberta doctors are asking the public to put pressure on the UCP to revamp primary care in the province.

On Thursday, the Alberta Medical Association (AMA) wrapped up a 24-hour social media campaign outlining the issues facing family doctors.

AMA president Dr. Paul Parks said family medicine has been struggling in Alberta for years.

"Our hope is to educate the public so they understand what's at risk, so they understand and they can put some pressure on their MLAs," Parks said.

Michelle Morros is a family doctor in Edmonton and the University of Alberta's family medicine residency program director.

She said her caseload has become unmanageable as more doctors leave Alberta and fewer new doctors opt to practice here.

"I have said yes to too many folks who could not find a family doctor," Morros said. "I cannot provide the quality of care that my patients deserve, they can't get in to see me and I am inundated with medicalist administrative tasks that I can't keep up with."

A recent ThinkHQ survey of AMA members found 61 per cent of family physicians are considering leaving Alberta or retiring early, and 20 per cent said their practices were unlikely to be financially viable beyond six months.

"If we don't make immediate changes to how family doctors are supported in this province, we will not have new family doctors coming down the pipes," Morros said.

The AMA is asking for a two-pronged solution, including immediate emergency funding and an updated funding model similar to neighbouring provinces.

Health Minister Adriana LaGrange reacted to the AMA's campaign Wednesday in a social media post, saying the UCP has committed to $200 million in funding over the next two years to help stabilize family practices.

Parks said B.C., Saskatchewan and Manitoba pay family doctors roughly $100,000 to $150,000 more per year than Alberta does.

The AMA estimates the $200 million in stabilization funding will amount to around a $14,000 to $27,000 one-time payment to doctors.

"We're not actually talking about personal income," Morros said. "Because of the way our clinics are funded and the funding models, it's the money to actually pay for the running of the clinic, so that we can have staff, so that we can have the equipment."

Parks said the doctors appreciate what is being done, but one time payments aren't going to solve the current crisis.

There needs to be an updated funding model in the upcoming 2024 budget, Parks said, or more family doctors are going to disappear.

"We were very frank and blunt with the government that the stabilization money is literally just a life-preserver to maintain our clinics that are here right now and retain our physicians," he said.

"We're thankful for it … but it's not enough, and that's what I'm hearing from thousands of family physicians across this province."

The Government of Alberta forecasted a $5.5 billion surplus in 2023-2024. Budget 2024 is expected to be released Feb. 28.

The AMA will meet with the health minister Friday. 

With files from CTV News Edmonton's Alex Antoneshyn and CTV News Calgary's Jacqueline Wilson Top Stories

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