June 16th, 2024

NDP fear possible doctor exodus following B.C. agreement

By Ry Clarke - Lethbridge Herald Local Journalism Initiative Reporter on November 2, 2022.

NDP leader Rachel Notley is voicing concerns of a possible exodus of doctors leaving for B.C. after a proposed pay deal for doctors in that province.

This week the B.C. government announced a tentative deal that could see a full-time family doctor paid about $385,000 a year – a pay boost of about one-third from the current $250,000.

On Tuesday Notley spoke to how this agreement will potentially cause more doctors to leave Alberta in favour of a province that is more accepting of its health care workers.

“I truly fear that Alberta doctors will look to B.C. as a place where the government has issued a very clear intent to build respect and to end chaos in health care,” said Notley. “What we have seen from Danielle Smith’s government is not that, and in fact, we haven’t seen that from the UCP government at all over the last three and a half years.”

Noting the crisis, Notley mentioned how recent remarks and reforms to Alberta’s healthcare could scare away doctors in the province.

“People who are trained in health care, whether they are nurse’s aides, whether they are neurosurgeons, all understand evidence and science. Those folks being told that they have to work in a healthcare system that is being led by a premier who doesn’t believe that vaccines are an important part of any health care regime, those folks are much more likely to go somewhere else,” said Notley. “Those statements are adding to the consideration by many healthcare professionals to leave the province. All this at a time when we see other provinces acting quickly to attract healthcare professionals to their jurisdictions. At a time when we know there is a shortage.”

Asking for immediate action, Notley also mentioned her own ideas for how Alberta could avoid the loss of more healthcare workers.

“The Alberta NDP has big ideas for healthcare. We have made a commitment to each and every person in this province that we will work day and night to end the chaos in our health care,” said Notley. “Under an Alberta NDP government we would launch the largest healthcare worker recruitment campaign this province has ever seen. We would get started on that day one.”

Notley said it’s hard to make direct comparisons, but the B.C. deal is on par if not better than Alberta’s.

Alberta Health spokesman Steve Buick disputed that.

“More fearmongering by Alberta’s NDP does not change the facts: Alberta full-time family doctors were paid $393,000 in 2019-20, more than the $385,000 B.C.’s new deal would pay them next year. And Alberta’s family doctors will earn more compensation under the new agreement with the Alberta Medical Association,” said Buick in a statement.

“The NDP are once again showing they have nothing to contribute on health care but empty politics.”

Smith became premier three weeks ago, replacing Jason Kenney as United Conservative Party leader and premier.

She campaigned on a platform that blamed Alberta Health Services, the agency tasked with operating front-line care, for what she terms punitive and unnecessary vaccine mandates and rules. She also blames the agency for fumbling the COVID-19 response, leading to hospitals teetering dangerously close to collapse during multiple waves of the pandemic.

Smith said action must be taken immediately to fix jammed emergency wards and ambulance bottlenecks. She has promised to fire the AHS board and revamp the entire system with an eye to decentralizing it by mid-January.

She has also promised to not impose new health restrictions or mask mandates to combat any future COVID-19 outbreak.

– with files from The Canadian Press

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