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Dozens of Calgary emergency room doctors speak out against cuts

Alberta government terminating master agreement and introducing new rules

Last week's move by the provincial government to end its master agreement has prompted dozens of Calgary emergency room doctors to speak out, voicing their "deep and urgent concerns" with the resulting changes.

In a letter addressed to Health Minister Tyler Shandro, 85 Calgary emergency room doctors write that the changes will have "significant" negative short- and long-term effects on Albertans.

Shawn Dowling, an emergency physician at the Foothills Hospital and Alberta Children's Hospital, was one of the doctors who helped develop the letter.

"This is an unprecedented letter in Calgary. In 16 years here, I've never seen physicians get together to write something like this," Dowling said. "And that's a function of what's happening right now … we felt it was important for us to advocate for our patients and advocate for our primary care colleagues who are going to be severely impacted by this."

The new rules, which are now scheduled to be in place on April 1, will change how doctors are paid. One of the most controversial developments involves changes to a fee known as a complex care modifier, which doctors were able to charge if visits took longer than 15 minutes.

Dowling said the complete impact of the cuts would likely mean that family doctors won't be able to provide a complete level of care, which might mean more people could be pushed to Calgary emergency rooms.

"We're already bursting at the seams as it is. Undoubtedly, these proposed changes will increase the volumes in the emergency department, which is, from a patient perspective, not where they want to be getting their primary care," Dowling said. "From a system perspective, it's far more expensive, and less efficient and less effective."



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