Region 7 | Media Release

Cuts to physician funding devastating for rural Alberta

According to dozens of rural primary care physicians, unilateral changes to the funding agreement between Alberta’s doctors and the province make it uneconomic to continue their rural family practices. The Kenney administration’s arbitrary fee cut as of April 1, 2020 is a devastating blow to the heart of Alberta’s rural communities and has precipitated a court battle between Alberta’s doctors and the provincial government.

“Physicians working in Sundre and Stettler have given notice that they can no longer afford to provide emergency and obstetrical services at the local hospitals. This demonstrates the disastrous impact on rural communities that is happening as a result of the UCP government’s attacks on doctors,” said Glenn Norman, central Alberta cattle producer and National Farmers Union (NFU) Vice President (Policy). “Sundre is in the heart of Alberta’s cattle country and also serves forestry and oil sector workers, while Stettler is in the heart of Alberta’s grain country and also has important oil service work activity in the area. These occupations are all considered high risk.”

The NFU reminds the Minister of Health that rural communities face difficulties in attracting physicians. “Getting doctors to set down local roots has been a vital part of creating sustainable rural healthcare. Physicians cannot make this commitment if they do not make enough to pay their bills,” observed Norman. “Rural doctors know not only their patients’ medical history, but also know them personally. This has always been part of the trust the patient feels toward the doctor. Health Minister Shandro’s assertion he will simply order replacement doctors to fill in shows complete disregard for the importance of the physician–patient relationships in delivering effective care, and which are so important to the well being of the tight knit communities in rural Alberta,” concluded Norman.

Improving relations between rural physicians and the provincial government is vital to Alberta. The provincial government must stop undermining our healthcare system. The first step is to uphold the mutually approved funding agreement with doctors. The UCP government’s continued funding cuts to healthcare betray the trust of all Albertans, and will be felt most acutely in rural communities.

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For more information:
Glenn Noman, NFU 1st Vice President (Policy): 403-227-2253