As Albertans we must all raise our voices to halt new imposed physician funding framework


April 1, 2020

Alberta’s physicians are on the front line in our province’s fight against the terrible COVID-19 pandemic, literally putting their lives at risk to save others. It’s hard to imagine a worse time for this government to move forward with plans to cut their compensation.

As many of you know, the Government of Alberta has cancelled its contract with the province’s physicians as part of sweeping spending cuts. When we learned, however, that the province and physicians had formed a working group we were hopeful they would find common ground to resolve the contract issue. Our hopes were dashed, however, when the government announced on March 31 it is moving ahead with imposing a new funding framework on physicians across Alberta effective immediately.

The province’s only concession was to suspend provisions in the physician funding framework related to time-modifiers, and delay any implementation of changes to stipends. These changes were likely in part a result of public pressure as demonstrated by the town hall meetings held in communities across Alberta. Unfortunately, other potentially damaging elements of the framework have not been changed.

During this COVID-19 crisis, more than ever, we as citizens and patients need to be standing together with all health professionals who are putting their health, and sometimes their lives, on the line for us. It is possible that our specialized centres will be overwhelmed with treating people who become seriously ill with COVID-19, making strong community-based health care even more important.

Our family physicians, along with many other physicians and other healthcare providers, are being called upon to play extraordinary roles. This is not the time to be moving forward with a framework that threatens the ability for them to be fairly compensated for their work.

As we noted previously, we are deeply concerned by the potential negative effects this dispute may have on the quality of care for Albertans. As frequent-users of our health-care system, we are finding it increasingly difficult to simply stand by and watch this unfold. We know that a strong community-based health-care system is more critical than ever. The concept of a patient-centred medical or health home is strongly supported by many people across the province. We know from evidence, including from the experience of patients and families, that continuity of care is improved in this model and contributes to better care and health for patients. An ongoing relationship with one care team/physician has been shown to improve outcomes.

We feel that this new funding framework threatens this model of care, and with it the health and well-being of Albertans. A health-care system that works for people (which we refer to as a person-centred health-care system) requires that people with expertise in accessing health-care (patients), people with expertise in providing health care (health care providers, including physicians) work collaboratively with policy makers to design care that works for everyone, at an individual level and at a service/system level.

This means that collaboration, which is characterized as rooted in a relationship defined by mutual trust and respect, is a cornerstone of person-centred care.

Members of the IMAGINECitizens community from across this province collaborate regularly with health professionals, either at a system level by actively working with them to design health services that work better for people, or at an individual patient or caregiver level to design health-care plans that will work best for patients and their families.

We see physicians as partners working with us to improve our own or our family members’ care and health, and to improve our health-care services and systems. It is in this role as collaborators and partners that we are stepping forward now to say that the province’s ill-considered actions are not in the best interests of Albertans, particularly at this time. It appears this framework is focused solely on saving dollars at the expense of the health and well-being of Albertans.

As work together to halt the advance of COVID-19 we are relying heavily on support and care from doctors and other health-care providers. Why would the government pick this time to pick a fight with the people at the centre of our fight to get us through this pandemic?

We are inviting all members of the Alberta public, who are as horrified as we are, to join us in strongly recommending that our provincial government suspend their decision to impose this new funding framework indefinitely.  It is critical that we citizens continue to educate ourselves and to claim our space in the decisions affecting our health care and our health. We must be part of the solution.

Health consultant Judy Birdsell and energy sector leader Charlie Fischer live in Alberta and are founders and board members of IMAGINE Citizens Collaborating for Health, an Alberta-based citizen-led organization that aspires to support Albertans and actively encourage citizens to be involved in shaping the future of our health care system.

For more information please contact:

Gail MacKean Mobile (403) 830-2580

Judy Birdsell Mobile: (403) 807-0181