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Lethbridge MLA criticizes UCP ‘war on Alberta healthcare’

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Lethbridge West MLA Shannon Phillips took aim at what she called the UCP government’s “ongoing war on Alberta healthcare.”

Phillips, who also serves as the NDP critic for finance, presented information from a recent quarterly update from the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Alberta (CPSA) at a press conference on April 22, which purports the Alberta Health Services south zone has 62 fewer physicians today than in 2019 — with 13 of those doctors formerly practicing in Lethbridge.

The report said Alberta lost a net total of 188 registered physicians in the past three months

“Those are actually staggering numbers and they show that a bad situation is growing worse with every passing month under the UCP,” Phillips said. “43,000 Lethbridge residents cannot find a family doctor and the pool of doctors is only getting smaller.”

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Phillips claimed Lethbridge has no walk-in capacity for healthcare, while few family doctors are accepting new patients. She added Alberta lost a record number of doctors in 2021, and criticized the government for what she believes is a lack of a strategy when it comes to recruiting and training doctors.

“Alberta families are the ones left to suffer as a result. Expectant mothers are forced to drive hundreds of kilometers to give birth; people who need access to an emergency room do not know when they will be seen or if the ER will even be open when they need it,” she said.

“Healthcare is on the ballot in the next election and that is especially the case in Southern Alberta and in Lethbridge.”

Steve Buick, press secretary to the Alberta minister of health, said he believes Phillips claims are an “absurd error.”

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“The CPSA report shows a net gain over the same quarter of the prior year. Comparing to the immediate prior quarter is simply an error,” Buick wrote in an email to My Lethbridge Now. “Q1 generally shows a substantial loss vs prior quarter, even in the past several years when the annual numbers show substantial net gains overall.”

He said registrations are for a calendar year, so doctors who don’t renew for Jan. 1 show up as losses in the first quarter.

“We recognize that the past two years have been tough on physicians, and Minister Copping is working with the AMA (Alberta Medical Association) to address the issues for doctors, and make sure we keep Alberta the best place to practice medicine in Canada,” he wrote.

At the end of March 2022 there were 10,965 physicians registered on the in province registers, according to the CPSA report. This figure reflects a decrease of 188 from the last quarter, and an increase of 99 from the same period in 2021.

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