The Alberta Medical Association is calling on the provincial government to launch an independent inquiry into issues of doctor intimidation in Alberta's health-care system.
AMA president Dr. Patrick White issued a statement Friday afternoon saying that the AMA board of directors agreed at a meeting Thursday that an inquiry was needed to create an atmosphere free of intimidation and retribution, where doctors feel secure speaking out and advocating for patient care.
"The decision reflects concerns within the medical profession that it is time to clear the air," White said in the letter.
A number of Alberta doctors have recently stepped forward to allege they were intimidated by health-care officials for speaking out about patient care.
The allegations, exemplified in statements former PC and current Independent MLA Raj Sherman made in the legislature, prompted all four opposition parties and Sherman to call on the province to hold a public inquiry.
The government has already established a review of the health-care system by the Health Quality Council of Alberta and has insisted that is sufficient.
But the AMA said the HQCA review was "problematic" because of its non-public nature, and that "its inability to compel evidence could inhibit its effectiveness."
White said a public inquiry offers the best opportunity to change the provincial health-care culture and to address doctor disengagement from Alberta Health Services.
But he also said that if the HCQA review remains the only option, the AMA would co-operate.
The AMA offered some suggestions to improve the HCQA review, including removing barriers posed by non-disclosure clauses.
Alberta Health Minister Gene Zwozdesky said he's puzzled by the association's demand.
He said the HCQA review is the better way to go, since it will get results faster and won't cost as much.
"We're not doing a public inquiry. I'm not going to advocate for tying up $20, $30, $40 million of taxpayers' monies to do a public inquiry that would take two, three or four years to get accomplished, when we need some answers right now," he said.
Zwozdesky said the AMA recently said it wasn't going to make political statements, but that this development could be perceived as being political — even while the doctors are still in contract negotiations with the province.
The Alberta Liberals and NDP both welcomed the move by the AMA, and used the opportunity to reiterate their demands for a public inquiry.