Provincial changes to physician compensation will cost patients: doctor
EDMONTON -- Dr. Don Wilson worries about the cost of health care, but he disagrees with the province's approach to savings.
"The problem with what the government is doing is it's attacking primary care," Wilson told CTV News Edmonton.
Family doctors like himself often treat seniors with pulmonary, cardiac and memory issues.
"They can't get seen in 15 minutes. They need that extra time."
How doctors are paid for that extra time is at the crux of a plan being imposed by the province after talks with the Alberta Medical Association broke down.
Right now, Wilson bills the province $38 for a standard 15-minute visit, but if a patient is more complex and needs more time, he'll add what's called a complex fee modifier to the bill. That means charging an extra $18 for 10 minutes.
But province is taking that option away for the first additional 10 minutes, citing misuse.
"GPs can still bill the $18 modifier at 25 minutes, in fact for the coming year we're still letting them bill half the modifer ($9) at 15 minutes," said Steve Buick, spokesperson for the health minister. He added the ministry is cutting that for the coming year.
"We don't have that many complex patients in the system to justify 50 percent of eligible visits," said Health Minister Tyler Shandro on Friday.
Wilson says half his patients do require more than 15 minutes of his time, and paying rent, staff, and equipment with less compensation will have consequences.
"You can't sit there and spend 25 minutes with a patient if I'm paid the same amount as if I spent 10 or 15 minutes with them," Wilson said.
Wilson wants the Alberta Medical Association and the province to reopen negotiations.
The province has said it is willing to go back to the table, provided doctors are willing to help them cut costs.