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Family doctors get $12M 'stabilization payment' from province, AMA says more funding needed soon

A doctor checks a patient with a stethoscope. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP/Thomas Kienzle A doctor checks a patient with a stethoscope. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP/Thomas Kienzle
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The Alberta Health ministry says the province has given $12 million to the Alberta Medical Association (AMA) to help some family doctors manage growing patient lists.

The Thursday announcement came just over a week after the AMA launched an "SOS" social media campaign in response to a ThinkHQ survey of its members.

The survey showed a vast majority of Alberta family doctors were worried about the financial viability of their practices, and 61 per cent were considering leaving the province or retiring early.

The $12 million was the first installment of $57 million over three years for the Panel Management Support Program, designed to help doctors and nurse practitioners pay for resources to cut down the time spent on administrative tasks.

"This funding will help family practitioners manage their growing number of patients," Health Minister Adriana LaGrange said in a press release Thursday. "We continue to collaborate with the AMA at various working tables to address challenges facing the system and to do what is necessary to make primary health care the foundation of the entire health care system."

Eligible doctors who manage more than 500 patients will receive quarterly payments between $1,000 and $2,500. Andrea Smith, press secretary to the health minister, said Friday the remaining $45 million will be distributed in 2025 and 2026.

Another $200 million for stabilization over two years was announced in December as part of the new Canada-Alberta Health Funding Agreement. That money comes from a $1.06 billion three-year funding deal with the federal government, to address issues in Alberta's health-care system.

Smith said the first $100 million is expected early in the new fiscal year beginning April 1.

In a statement on social media Friday, the AMA said the installment is appreciated but that more money needs to arrive soon to stabilize struggling practices across the province.

"The AMA has emphasized the urgency of the current situation and urged rapid action before April 1," an AMA spokesperson said. "A recent AMA survey found one in five Alberta family physicians were concerned they could not maintain their practices for six months, eight per cent said they would not last three months, [and] 91 per cent overall are concerned about the financial stability of their practices."

The AMA said stabilization funding is a short-term measure to keep practices open. It said an updated funding model must be included in the 2024 budget to address the issues long-term.

With files from The Canadian Press 

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