Recap for the week of March 21st-28th

Hey, Hi, Hello

This week has been a bit overwhelming and so I’ve decided to do a brief run down of what’s happened and where we’re at now.

As of the writing of this post there have been no announcements about a walk back on changes to physician pay as of April 1, those changes include changes to complex modifiers which would see doctors being paid $9.00 instead of $18.00 for the time spent with patients over and above the 15 minute mark, a change that many physicians have raised concerns with over the past few months, capping the number of patients a doctor can see in a day at 65, denying doctors overhead costs if they work in an AHS facility, and not paying physicians to treat anyone who doesn’t have an Alberta Healthcare Card, among other changes. Dr. Christine Molnar, President of the AMA called the cuts “Deeply concerning” and said that the cuts are seemingly random and don’t follow any over arching health policy plan. Last month Minister of Health Tyler Shandro terminated the agreement between the Province and the AMA and as far as we’re aware he intends to move forward with these changes despite the COVID19 pandemic.

As all of this is happening as our healthcare workers are working while being openly attacked by our government (sometimes at their homes), with one official going so far as to imply that doctors would abuse telemedicine by “soliciting patients” to make money.

Steve Buick tweeted on march 23: “The intent is to avoid physicians calling non-patients (eg to solicit them); an avoid the overuse of clinical codes for administrative contracts. Docs should call as appropriate to care for patients”

This tweet was in defense of the much reviled Telus Babylon Health app, which doctors and patents in Alberta and in the UK have raised concerns about, both in regard to patient care and in regard to privacy laws.

One point of contention with Babylon was the funding model, which saw Babylon doctors being paid $38.00 for a visit that a family physician in Alberta would only be able to bill $20.00 for. Health Minister Shandro responded to pressure from the public on March 23, by amending billing codes for virtual care.

Speaking of Public pressure and Tyler Shandro, how could I forget the vital partners fiasco in which our Minister of Health responded to concerns of a conflict of interest by attacking citizens and going to the home of a doctor and yelling at him in front of his family.

Last week a screenshot was posted to twitter showing a post from Vital Partners, an insurance brokerage that is owned by Tyler Shandro’s wife. The post was about changes to seniors prescription coverage and it gained attention due to the obvious concern that the wife of the health minister was running a business that appeared likely to benefit from the policy decisions regarding public health coverage. The post was picked up by several well known Doctors, including one who the minister chose to single out publicly and accuse of “personal attacks” against his wife.

Minister Shandro engaged in continually inappropriate behavior from there, responding to emails from citizens, with accusations and attacks.

The situation reached its peak (we hope) with Minister Shandro and his wife, going to the home of a physician at 7pm on a Saturday, telling the Doctor’s teenage children to go inside because “they don’t want to listen to what’s going to happen” and proceeded to yell at him and tell him to delete a meme from his Facebook page. According to a report from the CBC Andrea Shandro yelled at the doctor that he only cares about money. The doctor stated that he felt belittled in that moment and that his wife is now fearful for the safety of their family.

Premier Jason Kenney has chosen to make excuses for the minister and to keep him in his role despite calls for Shandro to be removed setting a dangerous precedent in which the blatant harassment of private citizens at their homes becomes acceptable.

Meanwhile, the U of A is going ahead with budget imposed layoffs and set to lose approximately 1,000 positions due to retirement, layoffs, position closures and attrition. U of A president David Turpin said that despite attempting to reach an agreement with the UCP regarding funding, the $110 million cut to U of A funding is going ahead.

Today the Minister of Education, Adriana Lagrange, announced that the UCP would be imposing cuts resulting in the layoffs of 25,000 k-12 public ed employees including EAs, maintenance staff and substitute teachers with 15 minutes notice to school divisions. Some Albertans learned of their layoff via the press release itself. This move will force even more Albertans to rely on federal EI that may not be sufficient income to cover their cost of living and will do immense damage to our public school system. We still have the CEC war room though so, lucky us.

In response to the COVID19 pandemic, the Government of Alberta has committed to 7.7 Billion to relief funding, including $500 million for our healthcare system, $45 million to waive interest on student loan payments, 3.6 Billion in loans through ATB for deferrals for consumers and businesses, $60 million in funding for community organizations, and $50 million in emergency isolation support.

The government is also strongly encouraging landlords and tenants to come to agreements themselves and says that those who make a reasonable effort to come to an agreement with their landlord will not be evicted due to non-payment of rent for April. “No one will be evicted for non-payment of rent in the month of April” said Glubish. I’m of the opinion that the direction from the government on this matter is too vague and will not be sufficient to protect tenants from eviction, especially given the concerning and consistent messaging from our premier implying that tenants are criminals and vandals.

This non measure falls right in line with the needlessly complicated process for accessing provincial funding (which my friend Mike Dunn covered in the article linked here https://bymichaeldunn.wordpress.com/2020/03/23/the-big-shut-in-limited-info-for-albertans-pals-about-financial-supports-from-the-ucp-and-a-long-talk-at-the-end-i-suppose/ )which is unsurprising given this government’s obvious prioritization of corporate interests over the well being of the people of our province.

There’s so much to cover, it feels like this government doesn’t want to give us a chance to take a breath between insane events and terrible decisions, and it was a struggle to edit this post down to what it is now, but I don’t want to overwhelm you with information.

I’ll be exploring these topics in more depth next week, if the government can keep their ministers from harassing citizens at their homes long enough for me to devote the time to anything other than Government intimidation and corruption.

As always, Stand up. Speak out and look out for each other.

Calamity out.

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