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Alberta raises some business cost, liability supports to keep community clinics open

Jason Copping

Alberta is reinstating several programs and increasing supports family doctors and other medical specialists receive to help cover operating expenses for their office-based practices.

Building off previous announcements after the new Alberta Medical Association (AMA) agreement with the province was passed this fall, Health Minister Jason Copping revealed further support increases Thursday.

"Too often we hear about doctors having to leave their communities and move to a larger centre just to make ends meet," he added. "Like other Albertans, they are feeling the pinch to pay for wages, supplies, and literally keeping the lights on in their clinics."

The province is topping up the $80 million Business Costs Program by an additional $20 million for the remainder of the agreement period with the AMA.

On average, Copping says physicians and specialists will receive an extra $2,300 to cover office expenses. He added that increased help for community clinics' business costs is "vital" as doctors deal with inflation.

Dr. Fredrykka Rinaldi, AMA president, said that investment would help provide more predictability to physicians.

"We found there were places it was just impossible to believe that physicians could actually keep a community practice open," Rinaldi said. "Unlike other small businesses, physicians can't raise the price of the fee."

Alberta Health increased the annual reimbursable amount for continuing medical training of $2,100 by $100 and reinstated reimbursements for medical liability insurance for some practitioners.

The province will cover $1,000 of the annual deductible for around 5,000 urban physicians. Many rural doctors already have that covered by the province, Copping said.

Now Copping says his focus is on "modernizing" the fee service model for physician compensation and working on addressing other health-care system concerns.

"[When it comes to fee-for-service], is this the right model? And actually, does it do the job that it needs to do," the health minister said, adding he wants to optimize them to ensure it properly supports rural practitioners and represents the "right mix" of compensation.

When asked if the rocky relationship between the AMA and the provincial government has been repaired, Rinaldi said there is still work to be done.

"There are issues of trust amongst some members and for some members, it will take longer for them to accept that we do have a relationship," she said.

"We would not be moving forward anymore successfully having a grudge game and doing nothing and that would not facilitate patient care. So I think we've chosen the right road."

In 2020, then-health minister Tyler Shandro unilaterally ended the master agreement with Alberta physicians, which ultimately led to the AMA passing a non-confidence vote against him.

On Wednesday, the government repealed the legislation granting the health minister that authority.

"I fully appreciate that, you know, there's some doctors [who] may not be happy with our government, and I understand that," Copping said. "But we are working together because we know that there's a commonality of interest, that we both have the same interest of serving the Alberta patient and Albertans." Top Stories

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