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MLA Tany Yao questions service cuts at clinic

PHOTO. Fort McMurray-Wood Buffalo MLA Tany Yao said he looks forward to meeting with the Primary Care Network about changes to the After-Hours Clinic saying the proposed daily cap on office visits for physicians is fair. Supplied by the United Conservative Party of Canada.

MLA Tany Yao said he’s at a loss to understand the decision to close Fort McMurray’s only After-Hours clinic.

Located at Stoneycreek Village in Timberlea, the clinic would close on weekdays beginning March 31, 2020.

The Fort McMurray-Wood Buffalo MLA said he’s disappointed with the Wood Buffalo Primary Care Network’s decision.

“We’re just wondering if this is a bit of an overreaction to the new policy, and if there’s anything that the local Primary Care Network, as well as our physicians, can do to try and address these issues to ensure that we don’t lose this very valuable service here in our community.”

The network decided to cut its hours in response to Alberta Budget cuts and new healthcare policy.

One point of contention with the policy is the daily cap on office visits for physicians.

Yao met with Health Minister Tyler Shandro at the Alberta Legislature to discuss the issue.

He and Shandro agreed the cap of 65 visits in the policy is fair.

“It was a rule that was put in place in British Columbia, and it worked to great effect. Out of the 41 physicians who do work [at the clinic], about 13 are exceeding the cap on a regular basis.”

Provincial estimates show an average physician in Alberta sees 22 patients per day.

Shandro and other government officials said a cap would protect physicians from burnout, and the cap would not negatively impact their ability to provide care.

The Primary Care Network argued the policy, if implemented, would restrict its physicians from working at the After-Hours Clinic.

A former Health critic, Yao said he understands the work physicians do in the community as his father was also a physician.

He said he looks forward to meeting with Primary Care Network officials on March 6.

“Their hearts are all in the right place, they want to do good, they’re willing to live in our community and make it their home. I hope we can get [this] clarified and that our citizens continue to get the best available services they can have.”

Regular hours for the After-Hours Clinic on weekdays run from 5:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m.

The Primary Care Network said weekend hours would not change, barring further government cuts.

Fort McMurray-Lac La Biche MLA Laila Goodridge also disagrees with the closure and defends the daily cap on office visits.