Critics concerned Alberta’s newly increased physician subsidy won’t help doctor shortage

On Thursday, Alberta’s provincial government announced it would be investing an additional $20 million annually into the Business Cost Program – in addition to the $80 million already being invested into the program. 

The subsidy helps to cover business costs and allow physicians to keep their practices open.

The top-up will mean an extra $2,300 annually for each physician in the province.

“These changes will help strengthen Alberta’s health care system,” said Health Minister Jason Copping at the announcement.

“They will address inflationary pressures that physicians are facing and help practices stay in communities where they’re needed most.”

Critics say that this won’t be enough to help physicians in any meaningful way.

“I do not expect that this small change will make much of a difference given the extent of the damage that has been done by the UCP in terms of their war on health care, especially locally here in Lethbridge,” said Lethbridge-West MLA Shannon Phillips.

Like much of the province, Lethbridge is continuing to face a shortage of doctors.

Bev Muendel-Atherstone, chair of the Lethbridge chapter of Friends of Medicare, says that physicians and other health care workers have been pushed to their limits in Alberta.

“They’re working themselves to the bone. Many are physically unwell from being on their feet for double shifts and working overtime and then they’re being bullied by the government.

“This is a very un-merry Christmas present to people who are suffering in the hospital right now with too little staff, we don’t have enough nurses, we don’t have enough physicians, we don’t have enough specialists. They’ve all fled the province because of our mean and draconian government.”

Phillips says the doctor shortage and various other healthcare concerns are the complaints she hears most from constituents.

“There’s no question that when 40,000 people in southern Alberta no longer have access to family physicians – and that has been during the time the UCP has been in government, as a direct result of their policies – that people are extremely unhappy with this situation.”

17 new doctors were supposed to begin working in Lethbridge this fall, but they may not happen until as late as march as the physicians, who are originally from outside of Canada, are in various stages of certification.

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