Physicians on care deficit and a response from AHS

October 29, 2021

Dr. Vesta Michelle Warren, AMA President

Dear Members,

Measuring the COVID-19 care deficit

During Dr. Paul Boucher’s term as president, he wrote to you several times regarding the COVID-19 care deficit. He shared with you what Albertans have told the AMA about their experiences, but it’s time to hear from some Alberta physician voices, also.

We recently surveyed members about what you are observing in your practices. Thank you to every member who was able to participate in the survey. As I look at the reporting, I am struck by just how broad and deep the care deficit challenge has become.

The survey was conducted in late August. We know that there has been further disruption to care since then, during the fourth wave. The pandemic’s impact on patients has been very clear to physicians. Here are some sobering results:

We asked: To what extent are you observing COVID-19 care deficit effects in your practice/in your patients.

  • 59.7% said the effects are often or almost always present in patients
  • 29.7% said sometimes
  • 10.5% said seldom or never

We asked: Do you feel equipped to assist patients with their care deficit issues?

  • 46.2% said they seldom or never felt equipped
  • 37.6% said sometimes
  • 16.2% said yes, almost always or often

We also asked members to describe how the deficit is manifesting. You can read some of their responses here.

We are not alone in observing these things. There has been plenty of media coverage on the subject. We know from speaking with officials at Alberta Health Services and Alberta Health that they are aware of care deficit issues.

Shared understanding and awareness of these issues is important because it will take all of us together to respond to this massive challenge. Our responses will be developed as we gauge our progress through this unpredictable pandemic. We will keep a focus on this topic because it will take time, intention and resources to see improvement. Through our albertapatients.ca online community we will be asking patients to help us understand what they need now and how they see their role as partners in their care. If you have a question you would like to ask our 15,000 albertapatients.ca community members that would be helpful to you and your practice, please let me know.

Seeking delay in AH and AHS payment changes

I wrote to you last week about stipend programs within AHS and our request to AHS and AH for an extension of these contracts beyond December 31. We requested a reply by October 25. For many physicians, December 31 is also important as it represents the date that AH has indicated it will further implement charges to physicians for practicing in AHS facilities, either through new AHS overhead charges or through the re-introduction of z-codes. To be sure, we are seeking to delay implementation of these initiatives - and all others - that negatively affect the viability of physician practices and further reduce our capacity to serve Albertans.

Our request to extend stipends has been formally acknowledged by AHS and more information will be forthcoming to the AMA. I will keep you posted.

I appreciate your thoughts on these or any topics, anytime. There are several ways to reach me:

  • Communicate with me privately and directly by email if you would like a reply: president@albertadoctors.org.
  • Comment publicly on this President’s Letter (please be aware that comments are public, i.e., not members-only, even if you are logged in as a member).

Sincerely,

Vesta Michelle Warren, MD, CCFP, FCFP
President, Alberta Medical Association

1 comment

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  • #1

    James Currie

    Physician

    7:35 PM on October 29, 2021

    In spite of the AMA's apparent recognition that AHS is working on the stipend issue, it seems to me AHS, AH, or the government is continuing to play hardball, and at the end of the day this will either lead to a withdrawal of services, or worse--an unwillingness of new physicians to enter areas of practice where stipends were previously in place. Personally, I doubt if anything can be done while Kenney remains in power.

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