New public health restrictions, AHS stipends

May 7, 2021

Dr. Paul Boucher, AMA President

Dear Members:
 
COVID-19 restrictions 
 
The new public health restrictions put in place this week have been welcomed by the broader medical community. Like you, I have been watching the rising COVID-19 case numbers in Alberta with increasing concern. For those without the content expertise to know what public health measures should be implemented and when, the rising numbers have been a testimony to the fact that measures taken to date have been ineffective.
 
We all appreciate, and have witnessed, the negative effects of public health restrictions, but we cannot afford to have our acute care systems overwhelmed. We want to ensure that we will have the resources we need to look after all Albertans that become ill, from COVID-19, trauma and other illnesses. Recently, Alberta Health Services made their Critical Care Triage during Pandemic or Disaster document public; it outlines a process that we hope will never be needed.
 
Thank you for all you do in these trying times – from care provided in the community to acute care, from the vaccination effort to the laboratory benches. These next few weeks promise to be trying times for physicians and our care teams.
 
Alberta physicians are leading important discussions about COVID-19, public health and vaccine policy. For some candid conversation among peers, you may enjoy listening to this podcast from the Joint Task Force that includes an interview with Section of Public Health and Preventive Medicine President Dr. Jia Hu. The podcast touches on the strategies other jurisdictions have taken to bring numbers down - including lockdowns – and explores vaccine effectiveness and safety and the importance of addressing hesitancy.
 
Supporting stipend discussions
 
As we move through the pandemic there are issues facing the profession that must be addressed. The end of the AHS stipends has been delayed until the end of this year and while the extra time is welcomed, there remains much work to be done. The AMA intends to support these groups as effectively as possible. Many groups have been offered clinical Alternative Relationship Plans (cARPs). Groups involved in these transitions have a right to representation and due process.
 
We have recently reached out to physician groups that have been identified as being affected, including those who have been invited by Alberta Health to a series of 16 cARP town halls involving 47 stipend groups. We have also communicated with section presidents asking them to help us reach any of their members who may need support. I hope that as a result of this President’s Letter, we will be able to reach additional affected physicians.
 
If you are a physician involved in an AHS stipend program and (i) are being asked to consider an ARP as an alternative solution and (ii) your group has not yet spoken with the AMA, please get in touch as soon as possible by emailing didi.wimmer-frank@albertadoctors.org.
 
The AMA is preparing to represent your groups on these matters and others. For example, each group that may be considering alternatives has the right to be represented and the right to be engaged in a way that includes due process. The AMA is putting together an effective team to deal with areas of provincial significance, such as principles that can be applied to ARPs, establishing efficiencies and economies of scale as we go. We are not going to be making decisions for physicians, rather, we want to ensure that you have what you need to make an informed decision, including the ability to collaborate and have input during the process toward improving the overall quality of the product.
 
Let’s talk
 
AMA advocacy leaders have been hearing from members on these issues. To help ensure that individuals have as much information as possible about their situation with AHS stipends and future prospects of a cARP as an alternative, the Joint Task Force, Speciality Care Alliance, Section of Family Medicine and Section of Rural Medicine will host a virtual engagement session on Wednesday, May 12 from 7-9 p.m. Following a short presentation from AMA Health Economics representatives, we will invite questions and discussion among these colleagues about common and unique issues and how the AMA is preparing to provide support.
 
If you are a member who is already on our list of members that we know are receiving an AHS stipend, you should have received a save-the-date email about this session. If you are facing changes to your AHS stipend arrangement, I encourage you to attend. You can register for the session here: Understanding Upcoming Changes to AHS Stipend Arrangements.
 
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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