Special RF information session; COVID-19

September 8, 2021

Dr. Paul Boucher, AMA President

Dear Members,
In this letter:

  • A special Representative Forum information session this week
  • Looking out for each other in the fourth wave 

Discussions with Government
The Board committed to keeping members informed regarding discussions with government. Following my last two letters, the AMA tabled a proposal with government and meetings have been held. Although the Fall Representative Forum meeting is September 24-25, we have called a special RF information session meeting this Thursday, September 9. The purpose is to provide the RF with an interim detailed update on what has been happening in discussions and our assessment of the situation. This will equip delegates to have a more fully informed discussion at the fall RF and also allow them to talk with their constituents in advance.
Following the RF, I will write to members to let you know what is happening. If you have not already read it, please review Where We’re Going (member login required), the Board’s overview of the key components of our proposal to government. It will provide context for future communication you will receive.
At this time, community physicians are struggling with financial instability and questions about safely managing COVID-19 patients in the community. Acute care specialist colleagues are battling the increasing levels of hospitalization and ICU admissions, some amid their own practice uncertainties due to the AHS stipend situation. I know everyone is under significant pressure and I truly appreciate it when members make time to review AMA updates and stay informed. Thank you all.
The fourth wave of COVID-19
New public health measures were announced Friday amid surging hospitalizations and provincial ICUs sitting at 95% capacity. Controversially, cash incentives were also announced to encourage the unvaccinated to step forward. While some jurisdictions have had some success with strategies like this, other provinces have seen increases in vaccination uptake following announcements of vaccine passport plans. Alberta must be open to taking every opportunity to encourage vaccination and all options should be explored if the Friday measures fail to have the desired effect.
Any relief in case counts from the new restrictions is weeks away. The need to cancel elective surgeries is indeed unfortunate and will worsen the care deficit that has built up during previous waves. I know you are tired and are trying, with those around you, to provide the best care you can to Albertans. The current state of our health care system is concerning and recovery lies on the other side of yet more daunting weeks ahead.
You may have seen a letter written by a group of Medicine Hat physicians last week, eloquently thanking “health care workers of every trade” for all that they have done during the pandemic. I’m sure those words of encouragement and gratitude from physicians have meant the world to those team members.
I want also to offer my gratitude to all health care workers; these have been trying times. I especially want to express my appreciation for all of you – the physicians of this province. The leadership and clinical excellence that have been shown in the last 18 months have made me proud to be among you. I understand that even accolades can feel like a burden when we are this tired, but I want to say: Thank you.
Recent anti-vaccine protests that have blocked access to hospitals, along with bullying and threats, have added to the distress many of us are feeling. Alberta health care workers have experienced harassment and intimidation, both online and while going about the business of caring for patients. This is unacceptable. Along with the CMA and OMA, we want to state strongly that we denounce all these incidents and support our health care colleagues.
Let us look out for each other. Some of our colleagues will find they need to take a break for a while and we applaud them for taking care of themselves. Some will step into new roles at a time when they feel least equipped to do so. Some will keep doing what they have been doing and it may feel more challenging as the days pass. Please take care of yourself. If you have capacity to check on a colleague each day, just to ask how they are doing, that can make a big difference too. If needed, the Physician and Family Support Program is there for you 24/7. Don’t hesitate to ask for help.
I will write again soon. You can reach me 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). 

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


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