Rural Alberta clinic withdraws hospital services after physician pay changes during pandemic

Doctors at the Moose and Squirrel Medical Clinic in Sundre, Alta., have had to make a tough decision on how to best care for their clients.

It’s an adjustment to a “new normal” under the Alberta government’s new physician funding framework that came into effect on March 31.

The clinic’s eight doctors made the announcement Thursday night on a social media video.

Their decision means the number of doctors providing obstetrics, acute and emergency services at Sundre Hospital has been cut by more than half.

“I think docs are fed up, like I am,” Dr. Tobias Gelber, a Pincher Creek physician and Alberta Medical Association board member, told Global News.

“I feel that Sundre has ignited something that may explode in terms of withdrawal of care.”

Gelber noted that doctors in Stettler have decided on similar withdrawals.

At the end of March, AHS implemented a new funding framework for physicians, part of their election promise to maintain current health care funding levels. AHS relented on the so-called complex modifiers, fees doctors charge the province to be able to see patients with complex needs.

Health Minister Tyler Shandro said in a statement to Global News he has seen the video from Sundre and is looking to replace the doctors at the hospital.

The decision from the doctors at Moose and Squirrel comes at a time when the Sundre medical community is preparing for the COVID-19 pandemic to reach the small Alberta town.

“It’s been a really long month — a lot of sleepless nights where my colleagues and staff at the clinic, my colleagues at the hospital, where we’re all preparing,” Diaz said. “We’re all doing our best to prepare a community for this wave of sick patients, unfortunately.

“We are planning for the worst-case scenario.”

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