AHS, HP Medical Clinic state their cases

Editor’s note: South Peace News contacted Alberta Health Services asking for an explanation after the story broke in the Feb. 9 South Peace News that AHS refused hospital privileges to a physician wanting to work at the High Prairie Medical Clinic. Below is their response, plus a response from the HPMC.

‘Complex’ issue to find the right doctor for a community

Editor’s note: The following is a response issued by Alberta Health Services Dr. Brian Muir, Zone Medical Director for North Zone, regarding AHS’s refusing hospital privileges for a physician wanting to come to High Prairie to work at the High Prairie Medical Clinic [HPMC]:
“Alberta Health Services [AHS] is committed to working with its physician partners to ensure patients and families continue to have access to timely, safe and high quality care.
“AHS is dedicated to providing fair and equitable access to physicians across the province that is aligned with the needs of patients and the community.
“For reasons of privacy, we are not able to speak to why any particular physician might not have hospital privileges at a particular facility. There is a consistent process physicians must go through to obtain hospital privileges. Patient care is at the heart of this process, ensuring not only that physicians are able to provide the care patients need and expect, but that the needs of communities are met.
“Physicians wishing to join the AHS medical staff need to apply, after appropriate credential- ing by the College of Physician and Surgeons of Alberta [CPSA]. The process of appointing and privileging then proceeds through a review by a Zone Application Review Committee [as per the AHS medical staff bylaws, currently under review]. AHS can process an appointment request for physicians who follow this process, and who meet every CPSA requirement and condition for licensure, as well as AHS requirements for practicing within our facilities and programs. Physicians who have additional questions or concerns are encouraged to contact their respective zone medical leader.
“It is complex work to find the right number of physicians with the right set of skills and expertise for a community. This depends on many factors, all of which AHS Medical Affairs considers in partnership with local physicians. A few of these considerations include coverage to ensure continuity of care when any physician is away; ensuring there is Emergency Department coverage; ensuring on-call coverage is in place; and, ensuring there is adequate work to maintain their medical skills and knowledge and reasonably support a physician’s income.
“We work closely with community attraction and retention committees, as well as physicians, to develop our workforce plan and recruitment. Though we offer equal opportunities for recruited physicians to meet with physician private clinics in the communities, AHS is not responsible for hiring in those clinics, or for their service model and its delivery.
“High Prairie currently has six physicians practicing in the community, with two others expected to have their credentials before the end of April.
“The community also enjoys the services of a nurse practitioner and has two medical clinics. It is the position of AHS that this gives High Prairie a strong complement of physicians, particularly in comparison to many other communities in the north and across Alberta.
“We want to work in collaboration with all physicians in High Prairie and we are prepared to have productive conversations about how we move forward together to ensure all area and town residents have the services they need to maintain their health. AHS is currently sponsoring a physician to work the High Prairie Medical Clinic. We have been working with High Prairie Medical Clinic for some time and look forward to continuing to work with them in the future.”

Doctor qualified, ready to come to HP

Editor’s note: The following is a response issued by High Prairie Medical Clinic [HPMC] manager Judy Johnston in response to Alberta Heath Services [AHS]:
“I am quite disgusted with the first paragraph where AHS says it is “dedicated to providing fair and equitable access to physicians” as this is not true for the patients of the High Prairie Medical Clinic. For eight years AHS has gone out of its way to make sure that HPMC could not hire replacement physicians for its patients.
“In the second paragraph, I am very disturbed by the inference that the doctor that we have hired does not have the right qualifications. AHS does not come right out and say it, but the inference is very strong and explains to me why some of the community members I have spoken to have told me that the HPMC needs to stop hiring doctors who are not qualified. HPMC has never done that. I really hope their inference does not include the physician we hired without their help, who was extremely qualified and was refused hospital privileges just because he worked for HPMC. The current doctor who wants to join us, is qualified and has met the CPSA [College of Physicians and Surgeons of Alberta] standards to be provisionally registered with them. Once he has completed a Practice Readiness assessment, he should be able to apply to be part of AHS medical staff.
“Dr. Muir has told HPMC that our doctor, once he has finished his assessment, and wants to work in the hospital, will have to apply for an AHS sponsored position. I question that. Does he not say in his last two sentences that AHS is currently sponsoring a physician for HPMC? Before Alberta Minister of Health Tyler Shandro switched portfolios, he had instructed AHS to help HPMC hire a doctor. Dr. [Robin] Laughlin and myself had met with Shandro face to face, and he was very receptive to HPMC problems. Dr. Laughlin had asked Shandro to please stop AHS from blocking HPMC from hiring any doctor.
“AHS always reverts to the Alberta Health Services Workforce Plan to defend any decision they have made, they did this in 2014 and 2015 to HPMC. Apparently, the Workforce Plan only applied to HPMC as they would not let HPMC hire one doctor as there were sufficient doctors in town [at six]. While AHS was behind the scenes hiring Dr. Ntsoane, Dr. Magda DuToit, Dr. Nader El Hsaeri. Dr. Kevin Worry was at [Town of High Prairie] and [Big Lakes County] council meetings, he was inferring that the doctor HPMC wanted perhaps was not properly qualified. He also inferred wrongdoing on the part of HPMC, as a “for Profit” clinic.
“Interestingly, AHS hired the doctor HPMC was not allowed to; this doctor had continued to apply to work in High Prairie, his emails to AHS recruitment were ignored except where he applied for Westlock. HPMC gave their blessing for this doctor to apply for Westlock, negated our contract with him, and AHS hired him for a position in Westlock. So he was obviously qualified.
“Returning to the present time, we do not have a full complement of doctors using the AHS Workforce Plan, unless there is another plan in existence other than the 51 pages I carefully read through.
“I agree with AHS that we need to ensure the Emergency Room is covered, I also agree that the doctors need to use their skills in the ER to keep them current. However, a doctor who works for HPMC will not be allowed to earn a few extra dollars or keep his skills current. So a doctor at HPMC is not allowed the same opportunity as the ones at the Community Health & Wellness Clinic.
“Essentially, a physician joining HPMC will be at a disadvantage, he will be new to the community and will not be given an opportunity to be part of the physician pool for the community. Not much of an incentive to stay!
“But, it is my belief the AHS Workforce Plan for High Prairie Medical Clinic is exactly that – make sure no doctor stays at HPMC, be it a new hire or a fully qualified doctor like Dr. Petrus DuToit who was also refused hospital privileges while working for HPMC. There were less doctors in the community at that time.
“I have other comments, but I don’t want to get carried away. There are so many issues. Each individual decision of AHS can be explained away with the use of the AHS Workforce Plan, but if you take the eight-year history that I am willing to share with any community member [and AHS] between HPMC and AHS, something is very wrong here! HPMC is not being dealt with in a fair manner by AHS, it seems that nobody in AHS cares at all about the patients who choose to come to HPMC.
“Dr. Muir states in his response that we have two medical clinics, not for very long with this continued persecution.”

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