Whistleblowers, seniors care: the AMA weighs in

February 10, 2021

Dr. Paul Boucher, AMA President

Dear Members: 

In a year that in many ways has been so unusual, we sometimes forget that “the usual” continues, too. One of the important roles the AMA has always played in Alberta is providing physician input into the work of the Legislative Assembly around various acts and regulations. In recent months, a number of statutes have come up for scheduled legislative review and the AMA has been asked to comment on two of them. One of them is complete and I want to share the feedback we provided. The other is ongoing and there is an opportunity for you to share your thoughts if you wish to do so.

Whistleblower protection legislation

The AMA was invited to present last week to the Standing Committee on Resource Stewardship regarding the review of the Public Interest Disclosure (Whistleblower Protection) Act. We last commented on this legislation in 2015. At that time, we submitted numerous recommendations for improvement of the statute. Upon receiving the offer to comment again, we consulted our original proposals and compared them to the current state of the legislation.

In our assessment, some important changes that the AMA recommended have not been implemented. We took the opportunity to bring them forward again. They are still relevant to the review and important to physicians within the public health care system. In particular, we would like to see resident physicians and medical students specifically mentioned and afforded protection under this legislation. We have also recommended that the committee amend the definition of reprisals against whistleblowers to include retaliation expressed through social media.

Other recommendations include:

  • The scope/definition of “wrongdoings”
  • The limited ability of the Commissioner to address/rectify “wrongdoings” or reprisals
  • The discretion of the Commissioner regarding the initiation or termination of an investigation

Here are the speaking notes from the presentation to the committee if you would like to read more.

Continuing Care legislation

One of the societal discussions emerging from COVID-19 is our approach to seniors and continuing care. Our current system is heavily institutionalized, separates our frail elderly from communities where they wish to remain and misses opportunities to support and amplify the contributions of caregivers and loved ones.

The Alberta Government is developing new legislation for the continuing care system in our province and has invited the AMA’s input. This includes input into areas of improvement in usual care practices and structure, but also in the response to future pandemics. The request letter indicates that the input will support new acts, regulations and other policy documents toward “better serving continuing care clients, residents, and their families, staff, providers and operators.”

We have specifically asked for input from the sections most directly involved in seniors care, including the Sections of Family Medicine; Internal Medicine; Palliative Medicine; Rural Medicine; and Public Health and Preventive Medicine. I am also inviting individual members to comment by 9 a.m. February 16.

We have prepared a short consultation guide, based on recommendations from a 2016 AMA Working Group considering coordinated home and nursing-home care. Five years ago, the importance of strong physician involvement – in the legislative review process and also at the table for discussions on system and regulatory changes – was an overarching theme. It certainly still applies today, and if you have thoughts to share, I hope you will do so.

To provide your feedback, download the consultation guide, complete any comments you would like to submit and send by email to president@albertadoctors.org. You may comment on any or all of the points noted and additional issues and commentary are welcome.

Thank you in advance for any contributions you can make to this process. Your thoughts are welcome any time on any other subject, too. 

Reach me in the usual 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 Associationv

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