May 17th, 2024

UCP having disastrous impact on rural medicine: doctor


By Tim Kalinowski on October 9, 2021.

LETHBRIDGE HERALDtkalinowski@lethbridgeherald.com

Dr. Sam Myhr, president of Rural Medicine with the Alberta Medical Association and a general practitioner in Pincher Creek, says Kenney government actions have had a disastrous impact on rural medicine in Alberta, and she wonders if it is all part of a greater plan by the Kenney government to close hospitals and cancel services without getting their hands dirty.
“It feels like maybe the point is to just drive us away, and without us there can’t be hospitals,” Myhr said.
In her talk to the Southern Alberta Council on Public Affairs on Thursday entitled “Government’s plan for rural medicine: Do not resuscitate?” Myhr felt she had no other way to understand why the government has been acting the way it has toward doctors, and particularly rural practitioners, the past two years. She provided an account of what has been happening in Pincher Creek as an example.
“We started with 11 physicians (two years ago) and we are down to six currently including one surgeon who if, God forbid, he gets sick or is burnt out, and then it is just done. Because that is the end of a lot of our surgical programs.”
She and other rural doctors in her area had been sounding the alarm for the past two years about both the loss of doctors and cuts to services which went unheeded until people began to protest and the civic governments got involved in Pincher Creek and other nearby rural communities.
“Suddenly the MLAs cared,” she said. “They were hearing from angry constituents, and they recognized that their jobs depend on their constituents being happy with them. And people that fear they are going to lose health care are not happy generally.
“What I am asking for is that you guys recognize what you need to do is care for yourself, and speak up for yourself, because our (doctors’) voices clearly don’t matter (to the UCP), but yours does.”
In this fight for the future of rural health care in Alberta, said Myhr, it is not just about keeping the doctors we currently have. It is also about the ability of communities to attract new rural physicians when they have to deal with a government who has poisoned the well of any good intentions or trust.
“That is obviously not going to be a desirable place to live or to buy into,” she said. “My colleagues depend on other people buying into practices in order to have a succession plan. And that’s not happening. Nobody wants to invest in Alberta right now. Too much uncertainty. What can you really say to entice someone to come here right now? Unless you are like a masochist, I guess?”
Myhr told SACPA attendees that if they want to save rural health care, and keep more doctors in Alberta, the people of Alberta must raise their voices and let the Kenney government know it matters to them.
“They want to look good,” Myhr said. “There is an election coming, and they want to deal with doctors. But what evidence is there they have been doing the work to get there? We have been talking more in Rural’s case, or had been. But talk is cheap, right? I want to see some action.
“We just want your help in keeping this as a priority,” she added. “We feel like you deserve care close to home, and we know the outcomes when you don’t have it.”

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TJohnston

An ironic situation given that the UCP derive a disproportionate level of support from rural parts of the province.