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Alberta escalates pay fight with doctors, asks regulatory college to intervene

Last Updated Jul 16, 2020 at 6:10 am MST

Alberta Minister of Health Tyler Shandro speaks during a press conference in Calgary on Friday, May 29, 2020. Alberta's minister of health has ordered an independent third-party investigation into how the province's health authority responded to a racist act. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh

EDMONTON – Alberta Health Minister Tyler Shandro is escalating his pay dispute with doctors, asking the College of Physician and Surgeons to make rules stopping doctors from withdrawing services en masse.

Shandro, in a letter dated June 18, says patients _ particularly those in rural areas _ have a right to timely access to care and that the college has to do more to make sure that happens.

He says the college needs to take numerous steps, including prohibiting entire groups of physicians from withdrawing services at the same time.

The letter was posted on the college’s website and discussed today at a meeting, where the college decided to ask for an extension to Shandro’s July 20 deadline.

Shandro has been involved in an escalating dispute with doctors since he tore up a master agreement with the Alberta Medical Association in February and imposed a raft of billing changes that prompted doctors in numerous rural municipalities to announce a withdrawal of hospital services.

In April, the government rolled back on many changes but some doctors continue to withdraw services, saying they need a master agreement and have no trust that Shandro won’t change his mind again.