The fact that Premier Jason Kenney came out and said that "things will have to change" in reference to physicians pay should come as no surprise to Albertans.
This was in the cards way before the pandemic hit. When they (UCP) passed Bill 21 in the fall, it was a clear indication that the province had no intention of bargaining in good faith with Alberta physicians.
As Shandro said later, "we have statutory power and we will use it."
It seems ironic that they say they have restored pay back to what it was before Health Minister Tyler Shandro's unilateral cuts and that physicians are worth their weight in gold, can risk their lives in the good fight (battling COVID-19), but then they are going to cut them off at the knees.
Kenney's rally cry of making Alberta great again and bringing it back to its former glory days are gone.
Pandemic aside, Kenney's single-minded focus on oil and gas may bring him down. He doesn't want to run a have-not province and he wants to take the doctors down too. And registered nurses.
He says your job cuts are "on hold," but asks them to risk their lives on the front lines.
Kenney and Shandro have been adamant that monies to physicians have not changed and in fact it might be even higher.
The UCP has never been transparent about how much private-for-profit health care will cost. Shandro has said that it won't cost more because they'll find "efficiencies" elsewhere.
Well, if you slash doctors' salaries, get rid of 700 nurses, wave goodbye to many other health professionals, how efficient is that?
Kenney has said that he wants to "widen the scope of practice for health care providers" including licensed practical nurses. Of course that won't come with a raise in pay. His philosophy is to do more with less (in this case, money).
Private delivery of care is based on profit and profit has to come from somewhere. They even have the audacity to insert the word "independent" rather than "private" now.
The campaign promise of no hospital closures has taken on a new meaning – to "reconfigure" small and medium hospitals, along with emergency departments to better align with patient needs and provide better quality.
These cuts that are coming will undoubtedly mean a loss of care in rural clinics and hospitals. Many rural physicians have already stated they will no longer be able to provide care for obstetrics patients and work in local emergency rooms.
Who knows when this pandemic will slow. Not before a vaccine is found.
Is it fair to expect our doctors tow ork under the added stress of not knowing what they are actually getting paid or for how long?
We will all be changed as we emerge from these unprecedented times, but surely this pandemic is showing us the worth of our physicians and the myriad of other front line workers.