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Shandro walks back pay cuts for Alberta doctors

Shandro reiterated throughout the press conference that the AMA was providing misinformation to Alberta physicians.

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In a shocking announcement Friday, Alberta Health Minister Tyler Shandro backed down on the Tory government’s pay cuts for physicians in rural Alberta.

The United Conservative government in Alberta terminated the contract with the Alberta Medical Association in January, after passing legislation that would allow them to do so in the October budget released in 2019.

“There is no contract with physicians,” Shandro said.

“After the physician funding framework was released February 20, those conversations that we had with the AMA did not talk about the issues – these came from our colleagues and conversations with rural Albertans – they were in a bit of a vacuum and did not come from the AMA.”

Physicians across the province of Alberta have taken an opposing position to the changes unilaterally enforced by the United Conservatives prior to the Covid-19 pandemic.

These included changes to physician pay when doctors performed shifts in local hospitals, initially refusing to include pay for overhead costs at their clinics. The change resulted in a number of rural doctors opting out of hospital rotations due to the lack of pay.

“As of March 31st, the government has decided that the care we provide in hospital is worth less than that same care given in clinic — even though for us they are under the same roof. While it is rewarding to offer all the extended services we are able to in Pincher Creek, they do come at a cost. This work is what steals us away from our patients during office hours and our families on evenings and weekends,” physicians in Pincher Creek wrote in an open letter Wednesday.

Doctors at the Moose and Squirrel in Sundre tabled similar sentiments prompting a response from Sundre-Rimbey – Rocky Mountain House MLA and Minister of Environment and Parks, Jason Nixon.

“I would encourage them to continue to work through the process,” said Nixon, who is the MLA for Rimbey-Rocky Mountain House-Sundre and the minister of Environment and Parks. “The place to deal with this is around the table. My view is that now is not the time, from both a pandemic perspective as well as from a financial perspective (to withdraw privileges).

“Now is not the time for division. Now is the time for all of us to work together to figure out how our province is going to get through this.”

The “division” came from the Tory government’s refusal to negotiate with the AMA, an organization who negotiates on behalf of Alberta doctors. The AMA is made up of physicians with a mission statement that stating “the AMA advances patient-centered, quality care by advocating for and supporting physician leadership and wellness.”

Health Minister Tyler Shandro announced Friday afternoon that rural physicians will continue to be paid for work done at local hospitals, in addition to their work in local clinics, and that medical insurance will continue to be partially covered by the Alberta government.

Rural clinics will be capped at $1,000 while urban clinics will see caps on clinic portions anywhere between $1,200 and $4,000.

“The intention was always to increase the nominal fee,” Shandro said, referring to the pay for hospital rotations for rural doctors.

“We heard that from our caucus colleagues as they met with us, to be able to come us with practical solutions, to be able to make sure that we have an action plan to deal with these issues.”

Shandro laid blame at the AMA for “not relaying information” appropriately to physicians.

“The misinformation they provided their members regarding insurance deductibles was incorrect,” Shandro said.

“Our number one concern is making sure rural Albertans receive care.”

Shandro said that while the government is willing to provide alternative models to provide a predictable or stable opportunity for rural physicians, he said the population is decreasing, but overhead for rural physicians is not.

Shandro reiterated that the AMA was providing misinformation to Alberta physicians.

Deirdre Mitchell-MacLean is a Senior Reporter with Western Standard
dmaclean@westernstandardonline.com
Twitter @Mitchell_AB

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Independent Alberta MLAs call for emergency debate on forced vaccinations

And the pair said they will not be revealing their own vaccination status, calling it a personal issue

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Alberta’s two Independent MLAs are asking for an emergency debate in the Legislature over the issue of mandatory COVID-19 vaccination policies, especially for health workers and the RCMP.

Drew Barnes, MLA for Cypress-Medicine, joined his colleague Todd Lowen, MLA for Central-Peace-Notley in making the call to Premier Jason Kenney.

And the pair said they will not be revealing their own vaccination status, calling it a personal issue.

Barnes said he was particularly worried about the impact on the RCMP, especially in rural detachments where he claimed few officers had been vaccinated.

More than 33,000 RCMP officers and support staff have signed an open letter to RCMP Commissioner Brenda Lucki opposing mandatory vaccinations.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said all federal workers, including the RCMP, must be vaccinated of face job consequences. But government memos say two-thirds of the civil service could be exempt.

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Vax deadline for BC health-care workers looms overhead

In BC, roughly 5,500 unvaccinated health-care workers will be stripped of their jobs on October 26 if they do not get their first shot.

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Health-care workers have been praised for their efforts surrounding COVID-19 for nearly 20 months, however, the ephemeral display of gratitude comes to an end tomorrow.

On October 26, roughly 5,500 unvaccinated health-care workers in British Columbia will be stripped of their jobs, as set forth in a public health order.

The order demands workers provide proof of having received one dose of vaccination against COVID-19 by the aforementioned date.

If they get their first shot before November 15, workers will be permitted employment seven days afterwards, provided they follow extra safety precautions until they get a second dose — which must be administered within 35 days of the first.

“We’re hopeful, of course, that people will move to get vaccinated and comply with the upcoming order,” said Health Minister Adrian Dix.

The roughly 5,500 employees do not include the unvaccinated long-term and assisted living facility workers who were forced out of their jobs by the province on October 12.

Similar policies have been rolled out across the country, but not without resistance.

In August, Alberta Health Service (AHS) announced that all employees, volunteers, and contracted health-care providers must be fully vaccinated against COVID-19. Last week, the deadline was pushed until November 30.

Similarly, Quebec extended its proof-of-vaccination timeline for health-care workers by one month, with the new deadline falling on November 15.

BC’s deadline — which looms a mere hours away — seems to be fixed in its place.

“The government forcing health-care workers to become vaccinated is really problematic because — for one reason — these are the people most likely to have natural immunity,” Dr. Steven Pelech, chair of the Scientific and Medical Advisory Committee at the Canadian Covid Care Alliance told the Western Standard.

“This is the way the health-care system treats them… a year ago they were heroes for helping save lives, now they are discarded for being unvaccinated.”

Reid Small is a BC correspondent for the Western Standard
rsmall@westernstandardonline.com
Twitter.com/reidsmall

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Chu sworn in as Calgary Ward 4 councillor

Chu was sworn in by Court of Queen’s Bench Justice John Rooke. Earlier Calgary mayor-elect Jyoti Gondek had said she would refuse to swear Gondek in over his actions in 1997 with a 16-year-old girl.

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Embattled Calgary Coun. Sean Chu has been officially sworn in again to the represent the area despite allegations of a 24-year-old sex scandal that erupted just before election day.

Chu was sworn in by Court of Queen’s Bench Justice John Rooke. Calgary mayor-elect Jyoti Gondek earlier said she would refuse to swear Gondek in over his actions in 1997 with a 16-year-old girl.

Gondek did not even mention Chu’s name during the ceremony.

In a media scrum following in the swearing-in ceremony, Gondek said council will be focusing on looking at the biggest priorities for each councillor in each ward and which councillor will be serving on the various committees, boards and commissions.

When asked why she chose not to swear councillor Chu in, Gondek said, “I didn’t feel it was appropriate for me to swear him in.”

“I’m focused on working with new members of council and one that have returned and letting them enjoy this day of being sworn in. All of us are incredibly proud of what we have accomplished and we are looking forward to celebrating this day as ours. So I’m choosing to focus on that today,” said Gondek when asked if she plans to take Chu up on his invitation to speak with him in person about the resurfaced allegations.

“The future will dictate that. Today I’m incredibly focuses on my family and my collegues who’ve achived a great success,” Gondek said about meeting with Chu at a later date.

Gondek became the first female mayor of Calgary in history. Eleven new councillors and two former ones were also sworn in Monday.

Calgary Mayor Jyoti Gondek was presented with the Chain of Office by her husband Todd. Justice John Rooke is on the left.

The Chu allegation involved an incident where he met the girl at the King’s Head Pub. After hitting it off, the pair agreed to meet later when Chu was off-duty and in civilian clothes.

The pair went to Chu’s house where he admits they engaged in consensual sexual foreplay. The girl then asked Chu to drive her home, which he did.

The girl later filed a complaint alleging Chu sexually assaulted her.

According to documents obtained by the Western Standard, Chu’s accuser said he had sexually assaulted her while holding a gun to her head.

However, Insp. Debbie Middleton-Hope, the presiding officer at the disciplinary hearing in 2003, said testimony from the then 16-year-old minor was not credible and not to be believed.

“I find Const. Chu to be forthright in his description of the details and I find his evidence to be believed,” said Middleton-Hope, a well-respected, now-retired, Calgary policewoman, in transcripts provided to the Western Standard.

“Under cross-examination (the woman) had difficulty in recalling pertinent details,” said Middleton-Hope.

“I find her evidence not to be believed and I was not able to consider her evidence when deciding a sentence.”

Middleton-Hope also confirmed there was no evidence that would have indicated Chu was aware the woman was underage stating, “several witnesses said [the girl] appeared to be 19 to 21 years old.”

Although allegations of sexual misconduct were thoroughly investigated and dismissed over the investigation, Chu had a letter of reprimand added to his file for discreditable conduct for caressing the accuser’s leg while on duty and was ordered to undergo six months of ethics training.

Gondek and Premier Jason Kenney, along with most of the incoming council have called for Chu to resign.

Chu offered to meet with Gondek in person to discuss the situation and has vowed not to resign.

“I’m sorry, I didn’t mean any harm,” Chu told the Western Standard in an exclusive interview on Tuesday.

“I have always told the truth. My reputation is important to me and now my family is hurting,” said Chu.

Chu is now looking at his legal options and a possible defamation suit over some of what he called “false reporting.”

Melanie Risdon is a reporter with the Western Standard
mrisdon@westernstandardonline.com

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Petition: No Media Bailouts

We the undersigned call on the Canadian government to immediately cease all payouts to media companies.

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No Media Bailouts

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