Care Deficit: Broad thinking will be required

August 20, 2021

Dr. Paul Boucher, AMA President

Dear Members:
I have previously shared with you some research from our online community regarding the impact that the COVID pandemic has had on their health and well being. These patients tell us that there have been detrimental effects on their physical and mental health as a result of avoiding care or having care delayed. This applies to a full spectrum of concerns, from diagnostic services to surgery and other specialist care.
I am hearing that in recent weeks, patients are returning to care in large numbers. While that is good news, we need to ensure that we can deal with that return as effectively as possible.
Community family physicians tell me that while practices are doing their best to accommodate the jump in patient demand, they are still constrained by ongoing financial and operational challenges from the pandemic and, in many cases, shortages in their workforce. Patience will be needed as we collectively tackle the accumulated care deficit.
Alberta Health Services reports that surgical capacity is back up to pre-pandemic levels. The provincial government made funds available for this purpose in the February budget and is advancing the Alberta Surgical Initiative with the goal of shortening surgical wait times going forward. The long-term success of any efforts will require a stable supply of physicians and health care teams; recent news coverage points to ongoing challenges in staffing. It will be important to build the positive working relationships that we are seeking in our current discussions with government toward an agreement and with AHS around stipends and other contractual matters.
There will be many factors in play for any recovery. All parties must think and act broadly. I invite you to review the full albertapatients report. I am sharing it with media also to extend the conversation.
I welcome your thoughts on this or any other topic. You can reach me in the usual ways:

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

Paul E. Boucher, MD, FRCPC
President, Alberta Medical Association

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