‘Virtual’ doctors appointments becoming permanent

Leader staff

Once COVID-19 ends, doctors will still be able to hold appointments by phone or online.

As of June 8, 2020, ‘virtual’ patient visits will be an ongoing part of health care in Alberta, says a government of Alberta media release. These were originally announced as a response to COVID-19 in March.

In the release, Minister of Health Tyler Shandro says, “virtual care has been an important part of our COVID-19 response, protecting patients, doctors, and clinic staff by providing an alternative to office visits that avoids the risk of contact with the virus. These visits have proved their value, so we’re making them permanent, to allow physicians and patients to keep using them as appropriate while being fairly compensated.”

Physicians are paid the same for virtual and in-person visits.

Since November, the Alberta Medical Association (AMA), doctors union, and the Alberta government do not have a comprehensive contract. On June 4, AMA President Christine P. Molnar sent an open letter to AMA membership entitled ‘What the AMA offered: Real savings, real solutions.’

Molnar says negotiations started in November 2019. “Typically, the two sides meet repeatedly, trying to find a common negotiating zone that represents movement of some sort on both sides. When parties reach an impasse, third-party binding arbitration is used to resolve disputes (as provided for by the AMA Agreement that was torn up on February 20).

“The AMA made numerous proposals to seek a collaborative solution.”

Two of these were:

“An across-the-board fee reduction for all physicians to provide government with its immediate up-front savings requirements.

“A commitment to meeting government’s $5.4 billion target, with any under-expenditures applied to physician services, benefits and programs.”

The AMA is campaigning the government to return to negotiations.

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