Discussion with Minister, federal COVID support

April 19, 2021

Dr. Paul Boucher, AMA President

Dear Members:

Board meeting and discussion with Minister
 
The April meeting of the Board of Directors took place last week. This was our first opportunity to gather since the ratification vote. We spent two days discussing the challenges facing our members, patients and health care system, and how we can best address them. We considered input from members that was gathered from the webinars and emails we received during the course of the vote on the tentative agreement. These rich sources of information highlight many of the concerns and issues that were shared by those who voted on both sides of the ratification question. 
 
We were joined for part of the Board meeting by leaders from physician groups including: Specialty Care Alliance; Section of Family Medicine; Section of Rural Medicine; Joint Task Force; Council of Zonal Leaders, Academic Medicine Health Services Program Council and the Clinical Alternative Relationship Plan Working Group. The discussion reflected what I have heard from many of you in emails and in conversation – a continued commitment to delivering value for patients and a strong sense of unity among the profession.
 
At my invitation, the Minister joined the Board meeting on Friday. It was a good discussion about some of the challenges that members had with the tentative agreement and the pressing issues facing us, including stabilizing physician practices, physician supply, sustainable virtual care and the funding for our physician support programs. The Minister expressed a desire to move forward in a collaborative manner and we agreed to begin addressing some of these issues imminently. The Board believes that the lack of an agreement is a problem shared by the AMA and government, and we hope that through working together on collective activities, we can progress toward a more concrete resolution. 
 
We will be following up per the outcomes of this meeting and I will keep you up to date. I mentioned that we have been learning from the extensive member input received during the ratification vote and I will soon be providing members with a report on what we heard and what that means for the AMA’s next steps. 
 
Pandemic response
 
As the months pass, the profession continues to work with our frontline colleagues to care for victims of COVID-19. The Canadian Medical Association issued a statement on April 16 calling for increased coordination at both federal and provincial levels. 
 
We are supportive of the statement and will wait to see what will arise from this call to action. In the meantime, the situation in Ontario is of grave concern. Here at home, the rise in case numbers is alarming. Our hospitalization and ICU numbers are not yet overwhelming, but that will change soon if numbers don’t stabilize.
 
I fully understand the negative effects that public health measures have on health – particularly mental health – and the economy, but if conditions continue to worsen, stricter measures will be needed.  A failure to slow the current escalation of cases will be devastating to the health care system and the health of Albertans.

Thank you to all members for your tremendous ongoing efforts. Please take care of yourselves. If you are experiencing difficulties, be sure to reach out to the AMA's Physician and Family Support Program. Completely confidential, PFSP is there for physicians, residents and medical students 24 hours a day/7 days a week/365 days a year at: 1-877-SOS-4MDS (1-877-767-4637).

Please continue to encourage Albertans to adhere to public health measures and to be vaccinated at their earliest opportunity. The pilot immunization project, involving 10 community physician clinics, begins this week. I know many of you are eager to move forward with providing vaccinations in your clinics and I will share further information on that front as soon as it is available.

Your comments are welcome in the following ways:

  • Communicate with me privately and directly by email if you would like a reply: president@albertadoctors.org  
  • 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). 

Sincerely,

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

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