Physician supply regulations

July 7, 2017

Dr. Padraic E. Carr, AMA President

Dear Member:

I have good news with respect to the efforts to develop a needs-based physician resource plan as established by our Amending Agreement with government. Some significant progress has been made and entrenched in new regulations approved by government this week.

Needs-based physician resource planning

I have written to you in the past about the issue of physician supply and a number of serious issues that face us in this area. At particular issue are: the current distribution of physicians vs. the needs of Albertans; lack of an overall physician resource strategy; and reduced opportunities for recently trained physicians to practice in their areas of expertise.

The AMA Amending Agreement committed AMA and government to work on a sustainable, needs-based physician resource plan, involving other health stakeholders who have a significant interest.

New regulations

The new regulations satisfy the commitments made by the parties. They:

  • Allow the Minister of Health to formally establish the Physician Resource Planning Committee (PRPC) for the purpose of advising the ministry.
  • Allow the Minister to establish targets for the number of physicians required. The intent is that such targets will be informed by the work of the PRPC.
  • Require all physicians providing publicly insured medical services to provide a PRAC ID. Most physicians already have a PRAC ID, but this provision will make it easier to gain a clearer picture of the supply, mix and distribution of physicians.

What the PRPC will do

The PRPC’s operational roles will include assessing current supply vs. requirements, advising on targets, building and implementing strategies and assessment of them.

The Minister will take the advice of the PRPC into account as she develops plans for the system, e.g., establishment of the Physician Services Budget. The PRPC stakeholders will use the mechanisms that each of us possess to work towards the targets.

No new restrictions on mobility

During the course of discussions, a number of options were considered, including the possibility of new restrictions on mobility. What has actually been established, though, is a collaborative structure. Stakeholders will use existing mechanisms in a coordinated fashion to help manage physician supply according to the needs-based plan. There are no new restrictions on physicians.

Collaboration moves us forward

The parties have worked hard together in the past few months to reach this point. I commend the Minister and government for establishing a collaborative approach – one that aligns well with what the AMA has been advocating for.

I will also say that the process has been transparent and open to stakeholders. The Representative Forum’s concerns have been addressed. We are left with the goal that RF has consistently supported: development of a needs-based physician resource plan.

In so many ways, the physicians of Alberta are leading as stewards whose interests are aligned with patient and system concerns. The work of the PRPC is yet another example in which the profession must and can step forward. Physician supply is an integral part of delivering a quality, well-integrated system that provides what patients need. I look forward to what can be accomplished with all our partners.

As always, I would be glad to know what you think. Please email or leave a comment below.

Yours truly,

Padraic E. Carr, BMedSc, MD, FRCPC, DABPN

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