Dear Editor; Minister Shandro,
Why is the Alberta Medical Association (AMA) using patients and the health of entire communities as pawns in a chess match that should never be occurring during a public health emergency?
I have been pondering this question and several others for weeks, but to be honest, I don’t have answers.
There is no doubt that our publicly-funded health system is not sustainable. Everyone knows this.
This global pandemic required our health care professionals to become superheroes to combat the virus.
Up to a quarter of my patients are newly unemployed because of this pandemic.
My patients don’t deserve to see their superheroes fighting the government to get more money.
The public may not be aware of this, but in medicine, similar to other industries in Alberta, there are health services that the larger centers along the Highway 2 corridor (QE2) get and then there is the Rest of Alberta (ROA).
I was born and raised in the ROA and lived first in Camrose and now in Drumheller.
I am pissed off that suddenly my patients and their access to quality care is being questioned for benefits outside of the ROA.
Apparently, the stress on the health system due to the global pandemic crisis, coupled with the eroding economic instability that it is causing, weren’t enough for the doctors and government to play nicely in the sandbox.
The AMA is spending a ton of time and resources, blaming the government for everything, without taking any responsibility whatsoever. Natta. Nothing. Zero.
Why am I asked on an almost daily basis to allow my name to be used in carbon copied letters chastising government, not about anything related to COVID-19, but about the fact that I should be paid more?
I wasn’t at the negotiating table, and I don’t know the details of what occurred, but I’m sure there are likely many reasons why the AMA couldn’t reach an agreement with government, with faults on both sides.
Rather than acknowledge their missteps, the AMA has spent an exorbitant amount of resources – including my physician dues – on a political campaign attacking the government, without explaining where they themselves went wrong, what they exactly offered, and how they expected to fit within Alberta’s economic reality.
I am a proud Albertan, proud to be a rural physician and I love the work that I do.
I was told by the medical establishment, I had to either get out of town, or stick with the status quo that since 1976 lacked continuity, lacked access, and was bereft of ideas that could vault rural medical care past the confines of the 1960s.
I proved in 2017 that I would never abandon my patients, or use them as pawns.
As a physician, I did and continue to do my part to help contain spending, while significantly enhancing the satisfaction and care of the health of my community through a Patient’s Medical Home model, recognized provincially and nationally.
This pandemic has taught us one thing – things need to change.
I do not believe in the status quo because there will always be improved technologies, better processes, and smarter people making everything that is good, great, and everything that is great, extraordinary.
Minister, you have the opportunity right now to put into place an Alberta health advantage that other provinces will use as a model for their own jurisdictions.
Our publicly financed and administered health care system must remain, but it needs an overhaul, and we can’t wait years for that to happen.
Rithesh Ram BSc. (Electrical Engineering), MD, PhD (Epidemiology), CCFP (Rural Generalist Medicine specialist)
President, Physician & Founder of Riverside Medical
180 Riverside Drive E, Box 1990