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Boucher said doctors don’t leave communities on a whim and that there needs to be a balance between protecting patients and physicians.
He cautioned the policies could be a disincentive for doctors to practise in underserviced rural areas or in more urban centres as hyperspecialists, where there could be no one to fill the void if they wanted to leave.
“What I really worry about, is you could say, ‘I’ve gotta leave before I’m the last person here,’ or ‘I’m just not going to go to that community because I’m worried I’ll be in one of these situations,’ ” he said.
In a statement, Steve Buick, Shandro’s press secretary, said the CPSA’s proposed policies are not unique in Canada. He pointed out that the BC College of Physicians and Surgeons also prohibits doctors from withdrawing services as a group.
“The proposed changes would not ‘force’ any physician to work anywhere or take away their right to close their practice — which is clear in the College’s proposed policies,” he said in a statement.
The dispute between physicians and the government escalated in February when Shandro ripped up the contract agreement with doctors and rolled out a new funding framework following a breakdown in negotiations.
Some of the billing changes were scrapped before they were to take effect March 31, while others have been postponed until the end of the pandemic.
Even so, a July AMA survey found 42 per cent of respondents said they were considering leaving Alberta because of changes to the funding formula.
Documents released earlier this month by the Opposition NDP show that more than 200 physicians were considering leaving the province or abandoning parts of their medical practice this spring. But as of Sept. 25, three communities have lost eight doctors.
The CPSA is expected to vote on the changes in December. If passed, the policies will take effect some time in 2021.