Kudos to the rural doctors of Alberta for locking horns with Health Minister Tyler Shandro and forcing him to back away from his ruinous “renovations” to rural care.
And kudos to the many, many urban doctors who engaged in the fight.
But we mustn’t take our eyes off the ball.
We still have no contract, no stability, and certainly no trust that this minister will behave honourably in the future.
I’ve watched with interest the response by rural docs thus far to the Minister’s climbdown on Friday. On the one hand, Lac La Biche physicians have indicated they will ask that their hospital privileges be reinstated, in “appreciation” of the reversals. I get that—they want to do what is best for their patients.
On the other hand, the Pincher Creek group will move ahead with their plan to withdraw hospital services, since all trust is gone; stating that they prefer that we come to a negotiated agreement via the Alberta Medical Association.
The Pincher Creek group’s response really resonates with me. It demonstrates, in spades, that this fight is not about money; that it is about honesty, and transparency, and respect for the process of contract negotiation—but most of all about the need for stability in the provision of patient care.
This minister and his government’s kamikaze approach to heath care in Alberta won’t cut it: it is reckless and ill-informed, and it is dangerous for the patients of Alberta.
And don’t forget: Urban physicians, who have been very much a part of this fight, who have been instrumental in getting the minister to cave on the rural front, remain very much on the chopping block. The government’s changes are suspended only until October, when they will all proceed and threaten the viability of practices with fee cuts and hikes in costs.
Remember that if this minister and his government’s actions to this point are any clue to their overarching game plan, they aim to divide us—to make us lock antlers with EACH OTHER, to create acrimony and distress and finger-pointing.
Don’t let them do that to us.
We must stand united. We must negotiate via the AMA and demand a contract.
We are supremely fortunate to have Dr. Paul Boucher taking over the reins of leadership in the fall from the indomitable Dr. Christine Molnar. And President-elect Dr. Vesta Michelle Warner is waiting in the wings.
I know they will fight for all of us, that they will continue to lead fearlessly, just as Dr. Molnar has done.
Let’s remain united behind them.
Collectively, we ARE the AMA.
J. Edward Les, MD FRCPC