'Family doctors may not be viable': Doctors warn of care consequences in wake of new Alberta budget
Published Friday, February 28, 2020 5:10PM MST
EDMONTON -- Alberta doctors say Thursday's provincial budget will leave them with less money and less time with patients.
"What may happen here is that family doctors may not be viable," said Dr. Christine Molnar with the Alberta Medical Association.
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Budget 2020 included an $82 million dollar cut to doctor pay with the government calling the move necessary to bring physician salaries closer to other provinces.
"We need to ensure that we're delivering maximum value to Alberta taxpayers," said Finance Minister Travis Toews in delivering the province's new fiscal plan.
The AMA rejects that premise, saying Alberta doctors are paid in line with other professions in Alberta and that demand for doctor services is expected to grow between 4 and 5 per cent.
"They will have to do more work with less money, so frankly that's a cut," said Molnar.
"At the end of the day, it's about concern about harm for patients."
A large part of the dispute between the AMA and the government is in how much time doctors spend with patients. They're paid for 15 minutes, but if they spend more than that -- but less than half an hour -- they no longer get paid for their extra time.
The province introduced the change last week after its talks broke down with the AMA with the health minister alleging doctors have been over-using the extra charge.
"We don't have that many complex patients in the system to justify 50 per cent of eligible visit," said Health Minister Tyler Shandro.
The AMA is now appealing to the government to resume talks through arbitration.
"We should be supporting Albertans and their doctors in deciding how much time they spend together, not the minister of health," said Molnar.
So far, the province has been unwilling to take AMA up on its offer.
Alberta Health did not respond to requests for comment from CTV News.
With files from Bill Fortier