Health-care funding changes a cause for concern

Letter to the editor

As you may know, the provincial government is proposing significant changes to the way physicians are compensated for providing medical care in Alberta. The government intends to impose these changes unilaterally, outside of the existing formal process for negotiating physician compensation. These proposed changes are expected to have a profound impact on the way medical care is delivered, particularly in rural family medical practices like Claresholm. This is particularly relevant given that our community has many residents who are medically complex and older in age (the median age in Claresholm is 54 years, compared to an overall median age of 37 in Alberta).
Among many proposed changes, the government is proposing to drastically reduce funding designated for physicians to provide complex medical care. These fees allow for multiple issues to be addressed at a single office visit, thereby avoiding the “one problem per visit” rule practised in some clinics. If these changes are implemented (proposed start date Feb. 1, 2020), there will be a significant and immediate impact on the way medical care is delivered in Claresholm.
Of even greater concern is the impact these proposed changes will have on our ability to attract new physicians to Claresholm and retain our existing physicians. We have been short one physician for over 16 months, with very little interest expressed in the vacant position, and there is no further capacity for the remaining physicians to accept additional patients into their practices. Numerous studies show increased system costs and adverse outcomes when patients are not attached to a family physician (van Walraven C, et al. J Eval Clin Pract. 2010). If we lose physicians we will not be able to provide 24/7/365 coverage of the hospital. This puts all medical services in Claresholm at risk. This will have a profound impact on the community, both medically and economically.
We have met with our local MLA Roger Reid but have yet to receive any confirmation that these concerns are being taken seriously by the government. We the family physicians in Claresholm are proud to serve the community, but if the government’s proposed changes are implemented, there will be significant impacts felt by all patients.
Please contact Roger Reid (, phone 1-403-825-212-2000) and Health Minister Tyler Shandro (, phone 1-780-427-3665) and express your concerns if you value health care as it currently exists in Claresholm,
Dr. Fraser Leishman,
Dr. Roisin Dempsey,
Dr. Jeff Jones,
Dr. Scott Smith,
Dr. Peter Yonemori,
Claresholm, Alta.