Government puts brakes on one aspect of physician compensation changes

by Morinville News Staff

Changes to physicians’ payments for complex modifiers will not go ahead as planned on March 31, the Government of Alberta announced Tuesday afternoon. Complex modifiers are intended to provide incentives to doctors to spend more time with patients who have complex medical needs.

“During these unprecedented times, we want to ensure physicians on the front lines can focus solely on providing patient care,” said Minister of Health Tyler Shandro in a media release Tuesday. “We’ve heard concerns that this change would result in what has been called ‘10-minute medicine.’ While we respectfully disagree with that characterization, we are nevertheless halting this change so that doctors can concentrate on the critical tasks at hand.”

It is a move applauded by Dr. Christine Molnar, president, Alberta Medical Association.

“We appreciate the removal of the complex (time) modifier from Alberta Health’s physician funding framework,” Molnar said. “This is a significant step in supporting patients and physicians. There is still work to be done. We will work in any venue to advance patient care and to reach a formal agreement between physicians and Alberta Health.”

A physician compensation advisory committee will be created to examine all aspects of the physician services funding model and make recommendations supporting the delivery of high-quality patient-focused health services to Albertans.

The first modifier that general practitioners bill for a visit will remain at the 15-minute mark at the current rate of $18.48. Other complex modifiers will remain available at current rates and current time requirements.

The NDP opposition were critical Tuesday of the government continuing with other changes even as Alberta declares a public health emergency.

“It is an important step forward that Minister Shandro has begun to realize how irresponsible and dangerous his attack on doctors during a pandemic is,” said David Shepherd, NDP Opposition Critic for Health. “But it is incomprehensible that he is pressing forward with other changes that will weaken Alberta’s pandemic response.”

The NDP is critical of the unclear status of 10 other changes to doctor compensation imposed by the province in February. They are also upset the province gave notice to radiologists Mar. 16 that it intends to terminate their contract.

“This is not a time for half-measures or grudging partial admissions of failure,” Shepherd said. “Doctors need clarity. Minister Shandro must own his mistake, make the simple common-sense choice, and restore the contract he tore up in its entirety.”

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