May 21, 2024

A new payment model has been developed by the province in consultation with the Alberta Medical Association to help retain and attract family doctors to address the crisis in family medicine.

AMA president Dr. Paul Parks said the model will make Alberta competitive again with neighbouring provinces.

“Family and rural generalist physicians who deliver lifelong comprehensive care have been under crushing financial pressures. Many have been forced, unfortunately, to close their practices,” Parks said.

“This new payment model is going provide a powerful new option for physician practices, one that will make it possible for doctors to stay in comprehensive care in this province, and for more and more physicians to come into the province.”

Most family doctors are currently remunerated through fee-for-service, and the new model will provide alternative physician compensation.

The pay rates still need to be set. The process will start with a management committee that will recommend rates to a rates committee which will have 30 days to come to an agreement. Final recommendations are expected to go to the health minister by the fall.

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Family physician Dr. Peter Bouch with Red Deer Primary Care Network said in addition to having to wait until at least the fall for the pay rates, there are a lot of unknowns about the new model.

“We haven’t seen a thing,” said Bouch about the doctor’s access to the new model.

“I’m not sure it’s going to free up my time so I can take up more patients. Most of us are struggling to keep up with our (patient loads). Paying us with a different structure, I’m not sure how that will be a major help. We have to see exactly what the model is and how exactly it works.”

According to Alberta Health, about 700 family physicians have between 250 and 499 patients, 1,180 have 500 to 999 patients, 880 have 1,000 to 1,499 patients, and 880 have 1,500 patients or more.

Health Minister Adriana LaGrange said this will be the first physician payment model that recognizes the extensive training, experience and leadership of family physicians and rural generalists in delivering comprehensive, longitudinal, primary health care.

“It will support and incentivize family medicine and rural generalist physicians so that they can develop long-term relationships with their patients and ensure that Albertans have a place to go when care is needed,” LaGrange said.

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Alberta NDP Health Critic Dr. Luanne Metz said the UCP created the primary health care crisis by making changes to physicians’ compensation that made it nearly impossible for family doctors to keep practicing in the province.

“For years, the UCP have waged wars on family doctors that have undermined our overall healthcare system, and there were no amends made today,” Metz said in a statement.

“Minister LaGrange has ignored proposals on her desk that were submitted over a year ago. Other provinces took action to address their needs in health care staffing, and now Alberta is behind,” added Alberta NDP MLA David Shepherd.


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