September 30, 2023


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Alberta doctors call for action on health care as premiers meet this week

Doctors from Alberta and across the country are calling for action on key health-care reforms as the premiers gather in Winnipeg this week.

The Council of the Federation meeting runs until Wednesday and health care is on the agenda.

“The state of health care in Alberta is abysmal. It’s crumbling,” said Dr. Fredrykka Rinaldi, president of the Alberta Medical Association.

“Community family medicine is stretched to the limit. Practices are closing. They’re moving to other provinces. They’re changing to different kinds of specialty practices.”

With an estimated 650,000 Albertans without a family doctor, Rinaldi hopes health care will be a top priority for the premiers.

“We need to start thinking about how we address health care in a more universal way across the country.… It’s an opportunity for provinces to get together and work at how they can move ahead improving health care without reinventing the wheel 11 or 12 times,” Rinaldi said.

Targets and accountability

The Canadian Medical Association (CMA) is calling on governments to commit to key targets, including ensuring 95 per cent of Canadians have a primary care provider within a decade and eliminating ER closures within three years

In a recent report, the CMA also outlines targets for bolstering family physician numbers, cutting surgical wait times and improving access to mental-health services.

Dr. Katherine Smart is wearing grey scrub and looking directly into the camera as she leans against a wall with her arms crossed
Dr. Katharine Smart is past president of the Canadian Medical Association. (Canadian Medical Association)

“What we really want to see is the premiers focusing on this issue, committing to action plans, committing to targets and accountability, so we can get on with the work of fixing the health-care system, because really what we have right now is a crisis of implementation,” said Dr. Katharine Smart, past president of the CMA.

“We’ve seen agreements in principle with the federal government and billions of dollars for health care really on the table. But what we haven’t seen yet is the action plans and really the commitments of where those investments are going to go.”

The CMA’s president, Dr. Alika Lafontaine, will be in Winnipeg to meet with the premiers.

“The status quo is not working. Our health systems won’t change unless we change how we’re trying to solve our many problems,” Lafontaine, who practises anesthesia in Grande Prairie, said in a press release.

“If we can agree on what we need to do differently, governments and health system leaders can clearly map out the key milestones needed to achieve real improvements.”

Meanwhile, Rinaldi said the AMA board recently met with Alberta’s new health minister, Adriana LaGrange, and presented their concerns about the state of health care, including the shortage of family physicians, and renewed their calls for a workforce strategy.

“We need to move forward much more quickly than it appears we’re moving right now,” Rinaldi said.