Doctors warn of potentially ‘devastating implications’ in the wake of contract terminiation

“We are in uncharted territory”

Stettler doctors say that the termination of their contract with the Alberta Medical Association (AMA) could wield very serious impacts to patient care.

According to a statement from local physicians, “Earlier this month, the minister of health, Tyler Shandro, announced that Alberta Health (the government) terminated their contract with the Alberta Medical Association (AMA). The minister has been very vocal in the media about the reasons for this, although anyone with an intimate knowledge of the case can quickly discredit those claims.

“We are in uncharted territory. The government passed a bill that gives them absolute power to dictate where we work. It also gives them the mandate to terminate any contract unilaterally that they are not satisfied with. The total disrespect for the sanctity of contracts, together with a blatant misinformation campaign, is very concerning to us as physicians. From April 1st, we do not have a negotiated contract with the government, and given this hostile action, there is a lot of uncertainty for us.”

The statement also noted that the implications could be devastating for patients, staff and the Stettler community.

“Many of us have to take a look at the viability of our practices. This will affect us all differently, but in the spirit of transparency, we would like to keep the public informed. Many of us decided that it is no longer viable to deliver emergency room services. This will lead to a physician shortage in our emergency room that will lead to the closure of the emergency room during certain times.

“Some of our physicians also indicated that they would close their practice entirely. In keeping with the CPSA guidelines and continuity of care, they will let their patients know about their intentions,” noted the statement.

Meanwhile, Alberta Health Services has said in a statement that the department understands that recent changes to the agreement between Alberta Health and the province’s physicians have caused concern for some physicians, including those working in rural areas, as well as members of the community.

“Alberta Health Services (AHS) is committed to working with its physician partners to ensure patients and families continue to have access to timely, safe and high quality care.

“We are dedicated to ensuring ongoing access to care for patients at the Stettler Hospital and Care Centre. AHS and Health Minister Tyler Shandro have publicly stated that no hospitals will close. The Stettler Hospital and Care Centre provides excellent care to the community and that won’t change,” reads the statement.

“AHS is in the process of developing a three-year implementation plan stemming from the AHS Review, which will be provided to the Health Minister by mid-May. As we work through that plan, we will work closely with communities regarding the review’s recommendations, including assessing the bed configuration of some of our smaller hospitals.

“This will be done with patient care at the forefront of any plans, and will involve input from local frontline healthcare teams, including staff at the hospital, and our community partners. No decisions have been made, the hospital’s operating hours remain the same, and the emergency department continues to provide care, 24/7.”

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