Top of Mind: Government Relations and Supporting Members and Albertans in COVID-19

April 7, 2020

Dr. Christine Molnar, AMA President

Dear Members:

This is a very stressful time as we enter the COVID-19 surge environment. Our normal life and work patterns are disrupted and anxiety-laden. We enter this time without the confidence that we are valued by our government, having endured their inequitable treatment as they now call on us to serve. But we do not serve a government, we serve Albertans. And serve we will as we march into battle to support Albertans, facing the biggest challenge of our lifetime.

During this time we need to keep our eyes on our two-fold goal: making it through this pandemic as we care for Albertans and achieving a fair negotiated agreement with government. Our decisions must be made in the light of these goals. We need to stay firm and true to our calling in the practice of our profession and unyielding in our requirement that our rights – of good faith and fairness in negotiation, of association and arbitration – be upheld.

I have heard concern lately from some members that your AMA is not supporting a strong enough fight against a government that ripped up our contract, refused us arbitration, imposed their Physician Funding Framework on us and seemingly, at every turn, vilified our members. Your association has been working at maximum capacity to address these issues. We are constantly reevaluating our strategy and tactics to achieve our goals, support our members and achieve victory. We must consider how best we will survive, and that is as a team, united.

As discussed in my President's letter last Friday, the imposed changes brought about by the government’s framework have resulted in heart wrenching decisions about the viability of some of our practices – and in conjunction with the pandemic have dramatically affected our ability to manage. These two actualities combine to challenge the sustainability of our health care system as we know it. Emerging from this crisis we will see a different landscape. We will need to support each other to find new ways to work together.

April 1 Issues - Legal Challenge

The battle against the Physician Funding Framework is ongoing. Behind the scenes there is a lot of work being done. This includes my contact with the minister, as well as daily interaction between AMA senior staff and the senior civil service at Alberta Health. Our interactions reflect the increasing urgency experienced by physicians who are in deep distress.

The Board has approved our legal option. We will proceed shortly with this avenue of advocacy for our rights.

COVID-19 Supports and Share the Care campaign

COVID-19 has overtaken the daily practices of physicians both in the acute care sector and in community care. The AMA is working to address the implications of the pandemic for members. There is an urgent need to maintain the stability of our community practices, particularly in primary care. No matter how strong the response may be in acute care, it’s the community that will determine just how hard the pandemic will hit us. Non-COVID-19 needs for care continue. Strong, active support from community care preserves, as best we can, the acute care resources needed for COVID-19. Income stabilization for community essential services has been introduced in Newfoundland and is suggested for Alberta. 

The AMA has hosted webinars to inform members about use of the new virtual care codes, as well as changes to the SOMB as a result of government's March 31 implementation of their framework. Over 3,000 physicians participated in webinars (March 27 and April 3). The sessions are available online and can be accessed through our Virtual Care page. Please note that the Virutal Care page and AMA's COVID-19 page are being updated regularly with tools and information.

The newly formed Community Support Group (AMA/Alberta Health/Alberta Health Services/College of Physicians & Surgeons of Alberta) is meeting to address issues such as personal protective equipment in the community as well as payments, compensation and business continuity. We are working closely with the Family Medicine Task force and the Specialty Care Alliance Task Force in all these activities.

The AMA's Share the Care campaign launched today. It is co-branded with the Section of Family Medicine, Section of Rural Medicine and Specialty Care Alliance. The goal is to strengthen our relationship with Albertans during COVID-19. This is a digital campaign with ads on free and paid social media. The ads send viewers to a special campaign landing page where they can get more information about staying healthy, including how to maintain their relationships with their physicians. These ads reinforce the message that community-based doctors are open for business and ready to care for patients - virtually or, if necessary, in person.

There was a soft launch yesterday, April 6, featuring a letter, previously shared with you from the SFM, SRM and AMA. Here is an overview of the campaign. For those of you on social media, here are instructions for using the social media tools. Thanks to the physicians who participated so far by contributing images and video!

In closing, we will all be there for Albertans in this crisis. At the same time, I doubt there has ever been a more difficult time for Alberta physicians. Let us take strength and stand together.

"Never, never, never, never – in nothing, great or small, large or petty – never give in, except to convictions of honour and good sense. Never yield to force. Never yield to the apparently overwhelming might of the enemy.” - Winston S. Churchill

Stay safe and well.

In your service,

Christine P. Molnar, MD, FRCPC
President, Alberta Medical Association

3 comments

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  • #1

    NAV

    Member of the public

    8:29 PM on April 07, 2020

    ?? I’m honoured having you Ms. Molnar, working for our doctors and the community and I include with you your staff, doctors, the board, Dr. Hinshaw., and all health care workers.

    You are the ones tasked to deal with the hard headed and mindless thinkers called the UCP. It is beyond rational thinking of any government in this world fighting for lives during a pandemic right now that would make cuts to doctors and health care. Their approach of out sourcing cutting jobs making profit off government invested companies like telus makes their decisions even more outrageous than using our tax paying dollars for a US accounting firm as advisers.This is an abuse of power including bill 20 and 21.
    The ill will in this community alone has grown as rapid as the Pandemic.

    The world has come together to fight this virus and will succeed In time however the UCP Alberta government will not be able to tip their hats for a job well done with health care. Shandro has brought down health care with cuts and greed instead of improving it for the better of man kind. Our doctors, front line workers nurses staff etc will all be hero’s but Tyler Shandro and the UCP will be nothing but a disgrace and a failure to Alberta. Canada will have a big stain on its beloved health care system by the Alberta UCP.

    I have said this before and I will say again. I hold the UCP government responsible for any lack of care taken from Albertans with their cuts who’s health was compromised before during and after this pandemic.
    No doubt there will be a massive shortage of doctors after all is said and done as well as shortages with cuts to nurses, family doctors, radiologist, in hospital doctors, obstetricians Hospital care and diagnostic clinics.
    Those of us who need continual care will be left in the UCPs hands with our doctors closed & declining health do to the lack of healthcare. The cost alone to emergency rooms for people that need a doctor, regular care and meds will far accede any money they thought their budget was saving.

    Having the UCP government refer to Albertans as trolls during a press briefing while Kenney stood by and supported Shandro for his lack of good judgement, leadership, and poor poor decisions that seems to get more out of control at every turn, showed US their true face. There was no turning back from that comment of calling Albertans trolls. We know exactly what the government thinks of the people they are to be serving.Shandro started this attack on social media in December.

    They shovelled in a public Telus app that under cut doctors by half the pay as a kick in the [redacted] to our Dr.s following more cuts then bringing back 2 modifiers, more cuts, bring back 2 modifies as this is the answer to shut doctors up for awhile. Still with no contract and the axe coming down its only a matter of time before the system collapses. It makes you wonder if this wasn’t a cost saving measure that they had in store for us anyways
    These add backs of CM is just a stalling act at best and I know from talking to many Dr.s it isn’t going to hold them financially and we are seeing the damage that’s already been done.

    Ive written many letters to every board, level of govt, etc but has fallen on def ears. I hope when I write I’m honouring my fellow Albertans and at the same time advocating for our doctors. I spend countless hours learning about cm and the ripped up contract and the arp system and studying models. Talking to and understanding the positron our doctors have been put in. I talk to doctors in other provinces as well. I never want to speak from a place of ignorance. I’m shocked at how ill informed the public Is except those that follow along on social media. (some being taken down by the UCP govt. complaining to twitter)

    Never in my life time did I think our country under the Common Wealth of the Queen would allow a govt. to go unchecked like the ruins of the UCPs during a crisis we never saw coming.
    . It’s time for the country to call the UCP govt. out on it’s abuse of power, private govt sponsored Babylon Telus abuse to Albertans “trolls” and the failure to secure Alberta doctors during an unthinkable Pandemic.

    I support the AMA 100% and I know they are doing everything in their power to deal with the unfit HM, Kenney and the UCP govt.

  • #2

    Hans Beamer

    Member of the public

    8:16 AM on April 08, 2020

    Good on you. Keep up the fight. I can’t believe the government is fighting with doctors at this critical time.

  • #3

    Trevor

    Member of the public

    3:36 PM on April 08, 2020

    You say "Emerging from this crisis we will see a different landscape. We will need to support each other to find new ways to work together."
    Extremely vague wording. Very disappointing. This could be interpreted that the AMA is already supporting private health care and ARP's instead of supporting rural Alberta Doctors. You need to do better.

    You say "The Board has approved our legal option. We will proceed shortly with this avenue of advocacy for our rights."
    What is the "legal option" that is being taken? Where was this "advocacy for our rights" months ago when the government ripped up the doctors contract. Wouldn't that have been a good time to advocate for doctor's rights? Why only now, after doctor fees were cut on April 1st. Way too little, way too late. Very disappointing. Webinars and media campaigns don't change a thing. Disappointing how little the AMA has actually supported rural Alberta doctors and all doctors in Alberta. In the midst of a pandemic. Alberta's citizens and their health care system rely on the AMA and you are letting them down.

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