Tag: Alberta Health Services

Dr. Jared Van Bussel – smiling white male wearing blue paisley shirt

Maternity care on the ropes in Pincher Creek

Dr. Jared Van Bussel, who specializes in obstetrics, will stay on as a general physician and trauma surgeon at the Pincher Creek Health Centre and will continue his practice at the attached Associate Clinic, he told Shootin’ the Breeze on Thursday.

“If I were a younger man, I might be looking for greener pastures. I may yet look for other rural programs I can support for a little longer, but I intend to remain planted in Pincher Creek for now,” he wrote in an open letter.

“If my colleagues call me, I’ll always show up,” he said.

But it’s unlikely that the health centre can handle scheduled births, especially routine C-sections, without a dedicated obstetric surgeon.

The man has been on call for 70 per cent of his waking life for years, apart from his scheduled time off. The burnout is real, but Van Bussel repeatedly stressed that he’s scaling back his practice because of what he considers an acute and profoundly systemic lack of provincial support. 

“Alberta hates rural maternity care,” he wrote, telling the Breeze that in his 16 years in rural family medicine, he’d seen too many gaps in patient care and professional training for new doctors, and too many shortsighted cost-saving measures he said were untenable.

 

Advertisement
Check out the local scene words

 

Things came to a head on his birthday, Jan. 16, when he received a letter from Alberta Health Services reminding him of the funding limits for on-call services paid for by an Alberta Health grant program.

“Please be advised AHS is unable to compensate you for (physician on-call) services in GP Surgery after you have reached 255.5 days of service,” the letter states.

AHS South Zone declined an interview for this story, but explained in a written statement that Van Bussel would continue to be paid, including for his on-call services.

“The South Zone recently sent a courtesy letter to physicians who were approaching the limited days paid for on-call time under the provincial Physician On Call Program,” the statement reads.

“We do not believe that any physicians (in Alberta) will go over their 255.5 days of on-call coverage,” AHS said in a followup statement.

The South Zone added that these courtesy letters “go out each year,” while other doctors at the health centre also received letters in the new year.

 

Advertisement
Get more from your dentist at Ascent Dental

 

Van Bussel said  he’d never received any such letter before Jan.16, especially not in his six years as the town surgeon.

“They’ll always pay me for coming in, but they won’t pay to support physicians or the community in general,” he said.

As heartbreaking as it was for him to write his letter, he said he’d been crafting it for a long time. He’d told his Pincher Creek colleagues it was coming about a month ago.

“I’m willing to reconsider, but I just don’t see it,” he said.

The Government of Alberta is plainly not about to prioritize rural health care, he explained, and “when it feels like everything is pushing against it, it feels to me that we’re approaching a breaking point.”

 

Advertisement
Two women in red coats and a man in a blue coat smiling and cross-country skiing

 

Setting aside AHS’s “tone-deaf” letter,  Van Bussel reiterated that he wasn’t concerned about his take-home pay.

“I want to pull attention away from any one event and draw that attention to rural maternity care.”

With AHS insisting that “Physicians are a cornerstone of our health-care system,” Van Bussel said he’d made it known for years that it wasn’t sustainable for him to live on call while resources dwindled at the health centre.

The health centre serves around 10,000 patients over a broad swath of southwestern Alberta.

Its team of doctors is down from 11 to six and, instead of asking how the province could do more to help, AHS sent Van Bussel a letter that seemed to say no help was coming.

“I hope this will become a discussion point in the community. I hope that people will start asking their decision-makers why this is the case,” he said.

Read Dr. Van Bussel’s open letter

Read AHS letter to Dr. Van Bussel

 

Advertisement
Pincher Creek Co-op job fair

 

 

Alberta Health Minister Jason Copping giving bill 4 announcement from a podium in front of a background of provincial and Canadian flags.

Bill 4 announcement met with skepticism at Pincher Creek hospital

 

Pincher Creek’s chief doctor remains skeptical about prospects for an enduring partnership between Alberta doctors and the provincial government after Bill 4 announcement.

Dr. Gavin Parker, community medical director at Pincher Creek Health Centre, spoke with Shootin’ the Breeze Dec. 5, shortly after Health Minister Jason Copping vowed to repeal the province’s authority to unilaterally scrap its funding commitments to the Alberta Medical Association, which represents roughly 1,600 practising physicians across the province.

Copping said the Alberta Health Care Insurance Amendment Act, 2022 (Bill 4) heralds “a collaborative environment founded on mutual respect and trust” more than two years after the United Conservatives, under then-premier Jason Kenney, ended the AMA’s contract and imposed a new one.

The amendment, which Copping endorsed alongside AMA president Dr. Fredrykka Rinaldi, underscores a deal that the two sides brokered over the summer and which was ratified in September by 70 per cent of doctors, Copping said.

The UCP government will undo section 40.2 of the original act, used by former health minister Tyler Shandro in February 2020 to terminate the AMA’s last contract. In return, the AMA will drop its pending lawsuit against the government.

 

Advertisement
Orange cat in front of cage at pet shelter

 

The proposed legislation comes roughly a week after Edmonton removed a cap on the number of daily patient visits that doctors can charge to Alberta Health Services.

The amendment pledges $750 million to “stabilize the health-care system” over the next four years, delivering a more than five per cent pay bump for family doctors. It also holds out “the potential” for binding arbitration should future contract negotiations break down, according to Copping.

Rinaldi thanked Copping for making a show of good faith, but stopped short of a glowing prognosis.

“It’s a step in the right direction, but it’s not a panacea,” she told reporters. 

 

Advertisement
Pincher Creek Co-op job fair

 

Over at Pincher Creek Health Centre, Dr. Parker was less optimistic. Most of Bill 4’s substance had been hammered out months earlier, he said. Meanwhile, the medical community is perhaps less willing to trust the UCP than Copping let on.

“That’s great that they’ve said they’d take (section 40.2) off the books. But, I don’t think we can safely assume this kind of legislation will never come back,” Parker said. 

The health centre and attached medical clinic now have five full-time doctors, less than half of the 11 docs that were on-staff when Shandro tore up their contract.

“It was pretty disastrous at the time,” Parker remembered.

Two doctors left the health centre to practise in urban centres in Alberta. One left the province altogether, highlighting the AMA’s aborted contract in their resignation letter. Others left to retrain in other medical specializations, while another doctor retired, according to Parker.

 

Advertisement
Two women in red coats and a man in a blue coat smiling and cross-country skiing

 

The health centre has recently brought on extra staff and “Alberta is still a great place to practise medicine,” Parker said, noting that doctors are paid well.

Surgeries are still performed at the health centre. “We’re one of a few places that still provide obstetric care,” while there’s none to be had in neighbouring Fort Macleod or Cardston, Parker said.

And the clinic has held on to its patients, despite the shortage of doctors.

“But, it’s been really tough,” Parker said, “because we haven’t been able to provide the same level of service and efficiency that people have come to expect.”

Emergency room patients with routine health concerns can wait up to eight hours to see a doctor if that doctor is busy performing a cesarean section, he said.

The health director also praised former health minister Shandro for his role in bringing a new CT scanner to the health centre.

“I’m glad to see the province’s finances are better now than when we were looking at contract negotiations a few years ago,” Parker said.

Watch news conference

 

Advertisement
Vision Credit Union shares its profits

 

 

 

Man blowing nose into handkerchief while woman wearing non-medical mask has hands in the air fending off germs

Respiratory illness outbreak at MHHS

A “respiratory illness outbreak” was announced at Matthew Halton High School in Pincher Creek on Tuesday, Nov. 22, according to Darryl Seguin, superintendent at Livingstone Range School Division. 

The outbreak came into effect at MHHS after at least 10 per cent of the 278 students stayed home with respiratory symptoms.

Schools are asked to notify Alberta Health Services’ Co-ordinated Early Identification and Response team whenever absenteeism due to respiratory illness hits 10 per cent or when there’s an unusual number of individuals (off sick) with similar symptoms.

Tuesday’s announcement came one day after an outbreak was declared at Pincher Creek’s Canyon School.

No further outbreaks were reported within LRSD as of Wednesday afternoon. A prior outbreak had been announced at the school division’s early-learning program at the Horace Allen School in Coleman. 

 

Advertisement
Pincher Creek Co-op job fair

Seguin didn’t say if LRSD has the authority to impose masking mandates. Premier Danielle Smith announced earlier this month that “Our government will not permit any further masking mandates of children in Alberta’s K-12 education system.” 

A Court of King’s Bench judge had previously ruled that a health order to this effect by Dr. Deena Hinshaw, formerly Alberta’s chief medical officer, “was made for improper purposes.”

Justice G.S. Dunlop ruled that the chief medical officer has the authority to mandate school health measures, but that Hinshaw had based her order on a political decision by cabinet.

Custodial staff at Canyon and MHHS are taking extra care to clean surfaces, while teachers are being encouraged to rearrange classrooms to allow for more social distancing, Seguin said. 

The outbreak seems to have spared teachers at MHHS, with Seguin saying staff absences due to illness have been normal for this point in the school year.

The division is home to about 3,750 kids in K-12.

 

Advertisement
Cribbage board and red poppy Legion logo

 

Twin boy toddlers with red hair and blue eyes laugh as they ride on wooden rocking horses

Nov. 23, 2022

Rockin’ into Christmas

Two-year-old twins Cayd and Coy Nelson have a rockin’ time Saturday at A Country Christmas Artisan Market at Pincher Creek Community Hall.

Ivermectin: A useful drug, but not a treatment for Covid

Unfortunately, in the sometimes desperate search for treatments to prevent or treat Covid-19, an epidemic of misinformation has emerged around which medications are, and aren’t, effective against Covid-19. There are several effective medications Alberta Health Services is using to treat Covid-19 in hospitalized patients, but ivermectin is not one of them.

To suggest that AHS is withholding life-saving treatment by not supporting the use of ivermectin in the treatment of Covid-19 is wrong.

Claims that either the veterinary or human form of the drug is a life-saving medication against Covid-19 are not supported by current research. If there was good evidence for its use against this virus, AHS would absolutely be using it to help patients and reduce the burden on our health-care system. As this evidence does not exist, AHS does not recommend the use of ivermectin to prevent or treat Covid-19 — not even as a “just in case” measure.

Although some early studies into the use of ivermectin against Covid-19 suggested possible benefit, none of the recent high-quality trials where results have been reviewed and assessed have supported these findings. There are genuine concerns of fraudulent data being reported from some of the early trials, and the largest trial that supported ivermectin use has already been withdrawn as a result of data fraud.

Alberta Health Services’ Scientific Advisory Group has reviewed the existing studies using ivermectin in the prevention and treatment of Covid-19. Based on the weakness of the existing studies — including small sample sizes, inappropriate study designs and inadequate controls — the Scientific Advisory Group agrees with expert groups like Health Canada, the Food and Drug Administration, World Health Organization and professional regulatory groups such as the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Alberta and the Alberta College of Pharmacy. There is no high-quality evidence that ivermectin is effective against Covid-19.

Neither the veterinary nor human drug version of ivermectin has been deemed safe or effective for use in treating or preventing Covid-19. Even the drug manufacturer has issued a statement that ivermectin should not be used for Covid-19.

Ivermectin is a useful anti-parasitic developed initially for treatment of worms and parasites in animals. It has also been found useful in the treatment of some human diseases related to worms and parasites. But parasites are not the same as viruses, and Covid-19 is caused by a virus.

There is no evidence that ivermectin benefits Covid-19 patients, but there are known harms. Ivermectin use has been associated with rash, nausea, vomiting, low blood pressure, abdominal pain, tremors, seizures and severe hepatitis (liver disease) requiring hospitalization.

Further, the use of veterinary versions of ivermectin is risky because they may contain ingredients not used in medications for humans, and are meant for use in much larger animals like horses and cattle. Ingestion of large amounts of veterinary ivermectin can cause poisoning and even lead to death.

The use of a veterinary drug not approved for use in humans is not acceptable within AHS facilities. Any claims of it being used will be thoroughly reviewed.

Further, because of inappropriate use of ivermectin, there is a critical shortage of it in many areas and it is not available to treat those with parasitic diseases, meaning some individuals may suffer needlessly.

It can be easy, especially in today’s digital age, to become caught up in disinformation circulating through social media, where scientific-sounding videos and articles of “evidence” and conspiracy theories play off pandemic anxiety. This pandemic of misinformation is eroding public confidence in effective medical treatments and in the health-care system to the point of endangering lives.

We urge the public not to misuse unproven medications in their efforts to avoid or manage Covid-19. It is dangerous. Visit www.ahs.ca/covid to get the facts, and to view the full report from the Scientific Advisory Group.

Vaccination remains our best means of preventing Covid-19. Our vaccines are safe, fully approved and have been studied in high-quality trials of tens of thousands of people. All Albertans who are eligible are encouraged to book their shot by calling 811, visiting a walk-in clinic, contacting a doctor’s office or visiting bookvaccine.alberta.ca.

 

Dr. Mark Joffe

Vice-President and Medical Director

Cancer Care Alberta, Clinical Support Services and Provincial Clinical Excellence, Alberta Health Services 

 

Dr. Lynora Saxinger

Medical Lead, Antimicrobial Stewardship Northern Alberta

Co-Chair, Covid-19 Scientific Advisory Group, 

Alberta Health Services 

 

Dr. Braden Manns

Associate Chief Medical Officer

Alberta Health Services

PROUD TO BE LOCALLY OWNED AND LOCALLY STAFFED!

Office hours 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Monday to Friday
697A Main Street | Box 811, Pincher Creek, AB T0K 1W0

403-904-2227

Copyright 2011–2023 Shootin’ the Breeze.
All materials on this website are protected by Canadian copyright law and may be used only with permission.