More than 200 rural Alberta doctors considered withdrawing services amid ongoing dispute with government, documents show

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According to the documents, some doctors later agreed to postpone plans to withdraw services until after the pandemic. As of Sept 25, three communities have lost eight doctors.

At a Thursday news conference, NDP health critic David Shepherd said Shandro owes a fair and full accounting of how severely Albertans’ access to care may have been jeopardized by the ongoing dispute.

“They may want to play with words, they may want to tap dance around the fact, but it’s clear the minister was working to hide the impact of his war on doctors,” said Shepherd.

Steve Buick, press secretary for Shandro, said in a Thursday statement even though physicians have publicly stated they would withdraw from hospital privileges or leave the province altogether, only a handful in three communities have submitted the required formal application to do so.

The latest data confirmed by AHS lists that 80 doctors in 15 communities have given notification of intent, while 12 doctors have given formal notice. Of those who have given formal notice, six are in Sundre, one in Ponoka, and five in Stettler — although four of those Stettler doctors’ resignations are possible post-pandemic.

“We do not expect shortages overall or in any specific community, apart from the normal staffing challenges in smaller centres,” said Buick, who shared the list but not AHS’ internal risk assessment documents.

Specifics on how far doctors have gone in providing official notice are largely redacted, as are AHS’s plans and recommendations for how to deal with their potential loss.

Some documents list mitigation plans for communities deemed high risk or medium risk, including scheduled meetings with doctors and AHS officials.

Buick said the province continues to see an overall increase in the number of practising physicians. As of June 30 this year, 116 doctors began practising in Alberta, while 21 left — a net gain of 95 in the second quarter.

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