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'Who are you going to believe?': Cochrane doctors write letter attacking UCP

Last Updated Sep 9, 2020 at 12:43 pm MDT

Doctor using stethoscope take a tap on the patient's arm in office room. (Wutthichai Luemuang /EyeEm/Getty Images)

COCHRANE (660 NEWS) – A group of doctors in Cochrane are speaking out against the UCP government saying it is misrepresenting what the dispute with doctors is all about.

In a letter published in the Cochrane Times, the group of 22 doctors said their concerns are over what they call the government’s attack on primary care and not money.

The letter was in response to comments made by Airdrie-Cochrane MLA Peter Guthrie on physician compensation and fiscal responsibility.

The doctors ask Albertans, “Who are you going to believe? A politician towing the party line? Or the committed doctors who live and work in their towns?”

“We, the physicians of Cochrane, want you to know that while Mr. Guthrie continues to spread misinformation, we are advocating doggedly to defend our public health care system and your medical care here in Cochrane. We know intimately the strain our town is under, and Mr. Guthrie stoking the fire of hostility towards physicians is indefensible and damaging.”

Health Minister Tyler Shandro responded to those comments, disagreeing with the doctors’ statement that their dispute is not about dollars.

“Anytime somebody says it’s not about the money, it’s about the money.”

He added that he presented a new framework for doctors’ compensation back in February.

“One of the changes we made was no longer having the authority of government delegated to a third party which stopped the government from setting a budget. That’s not going to be part of any framework we have on how physicians are compensated.”

The Alberta Medical Association (AMA) has requested Shandro and doctors go to binding arbitration, but Shandro said they gave the medical professionals a new drafted agreement on Aug. 13 and they’ve spoken since to move forward.

“We did provide them with a draft and they did provide us with tract changes to that draft. We’re going through that draft and look forward to being able to provide them with our response to those changes.”

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

The medical association said that dispute has led to many doctors leaving the province altogether.

In July, nearly 98 per cent of AMA members voted no-confidence in Shandro saying their relationship with the government has never been this bad and that Shandro’s actions have led to a chaotic and toxic situation.

Premier Jason Kenney, however, has defended Shandro, adding his government is responsible for all Albertans and while physicians are well compensated, he believes Albertans are not getting the best bang for their buck.

-with files from The Canadian Press and The Cochrane Times.