Group of Sundre doctors to stop working in local hospital because of Alberta government fee cuts

Eight physicians in Sundre say provincial health-care funding cuts forced them to choose between continuing to provide services in the local hospital or keep their clinic running in the southern Alberta town.

'They won't be able to deliver their babies in their town ... a huge, devastating loss for our community'

Eight doctors who work at the Moose & Squirrel Medical Clinic in Sundre say pay cuts pushed through by the Alberta government on April 1 have forced them to stop doing hospital shifts. (David Donnelly/CBC)

Eight physicians in Sundre say provincial health care funding cuts forced them to choose between continuing to provide services in the local hospital or keep their clinic running in the southern Alberta town.

The family physicians at the Moose & Squirrel Medical Clinic hosted a Facebook live on Thursday night to let the community know that they've decided to focus on their clinic.

"We wanted our community to know first," Dr. Carly Crewe told CBC News.

"We've had to decide that we're going to have to withdraw services from the Sundre hospital, including delivering babies, and working in the emergency department and doing inpatient work in order to remain in the community at all and provide care through our private business," she said.

Dr. Carly Crewe and her colleagues at their clinic in Sundre have told the province they won't be doing hospital work as of July because of fee cuts. (Dr. Carly Crewe )

Crewe said changes that took effect this month in the way doctors like she and her colleagues can bill for the medicine they practise in the hospital, coupled with a rollback in their medical liability reimbursement, has forced their hands.

In February, the UCP government terminated the existing master contract with physicians and imposed changes to billing and compensation after talks with the Alberta Medical Association broke down.

Crewe said the resulting cuts to some fees mean some rural physicians will lose between 20 and 60 per cent of their gross income.

"In order to recoup that, we need to be in our business, to work more in our actual business, where we will make more money, to be able to run our business," she said.

Dr. Carly Crewe asks others doctors not to become martyrs 1:08

Health Minister Tyler Shandro said there won't be any reductions in service at the Sundre Hospital and Care Centre.

"If these physicians chose to voluntarily give up their privileges, we will immediately bring in replacement physicians to provide those services," he said in an email to CBC News.

"The Government of Alberta will also begin exploring permanent solutions to augment and stabilize physician services in Sundre over the longer term."

Shandro also noted that the province did walk back its earlier decision to limit how much doctors could be paid for longer appointments.

Crewe said the decision at her clinic to withdraw hospital service was devastating for her and her colleagues.

"We don't want to practise this way," she said.

"We came and worked in this community, and love this community, because of the type of medicine that we get to practise, because we get to have that continuity of care between the emergency department and our clinic, we can deliver babies, and see them the week later in clinic and followup."

Crewe said they'll continue to provide hospital services until July 1.

"The absolute last thing we're intending to do here is leave our community in its greatest time of need, during the COVID pandemic," she said.

"We will continue to work in hospital for 90 days."

Dr. Robert Warren explains the health cut impacts on rural clinics 2:31

With files from Jennifer Lee