Editorial – Slamming doors on the future

Jeff Burgar

The Alberta government says the number of doctors across Alberta doubled in the past 20 years.

Also, even though the population of Alberta has grown, the number of doctors per 100,000 grew even more. In 2001, there were 167 doctors per 100,000 people. In 2018, there were 249.

Alberta is a good place to be a doctor. According to some statistics, an Alberta doctor makes the most money compared to the rest of Canada.

In this, there is good news and bad news. The good news is, despite fears in recent news reports across Canada people don’t have family doctors, Alberta says there are 1,000 doctors in this province looking for more business right now. The bad news is most are in Edmonton and Calgary, and 120 in northern Alberta. Another 106 are in central and southern Alberta.

Basically, there should be another 250 or so doctors in rural Alberta wanting business, and 250 or so less in Edmonton and Calgary.

More bad news! If you are a doctor, the government wants to rein in, right across the board, what they say are high fees paid to doctors.

We say pay Edmonton and Calgary less. Keep paying rural Alberta doctors the same. Maybe even more!

In theory, there are already incentives to attract doctors to rural Alberta. What’s wrong with more? High Prairie, Peace River, Slave Lake, McLennan all say they are working hard to attract doctors. Doing so for decades. What’s wrong with giving them more help, especially when it can be balanced by cutbacks in big and even smaller cities, like Red Deer and Grande Prairie.

Meanwhile, there are other issues. Once upon a time, Alberta promoted itself as becoming a medical innovator. Tonnes of talk about diversifying away from our energy economy were shovelled. What happened? With the talk these days about the cost of health, and all the money involved, it seems a no-brainer to get in on the action. New technologies. New medicines. Experimental treatment. Learning to build better in the face of ever increasing standards. Even increasing doctor insurance costs.

In fact, ever increasing money requirements in every nook and cranny of the industry. Even demands of an aging population.

As they say, you got lemons, try making lemonade. If you are spending billions on health care, and so is the rest of the world, do you think there is opportunity? Of course! Not just one or two opportunities. Billions! The Mazankowski Heart Centre in Edmonton a prime example.

The sad part is, when a remarkable idea actually germinates, our systems work hard, not to encourage, but to kill. Is Alberta noted as a place where medical innovation, creativity, and instruction is rewarded?

Or is it seen more as a place where a decent doctor can make good money then go skiing?

The problem is, too many politicians and bureaucrats think too much about skiing and oil. These days, spending cutbacks are also in the same kind of one-track mentality ruts when there are opportunities to do good.

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