Some family doctors in Alberta will have to wait nearly a month for their next paycheque.
Physicians who are part of the Blended Capitation Clinics Alternative Relationship Plan (ARP) received a memo from the province outlining that claims received over December won’t be processed on time due to a scheduled holiday break from Alberta Health.
Family physician Dr. Jon Hilner is one of those doctors impacted by the call.
“We’ll make it work. You know, it’s going to be a bit tighter for Christmas for us but we’ll find a way,” he explained.
The plan runs on a fee-per-patient model versus a fee-for-service model. The installments cover salaries for health-care staff under the ARP.
Grandin Medical Centre has nearly 45 employees ranging from physicians, nurses, office assistants, referral coordinators, administration, mental health nurses and pharmacists. They’re left to figure out how to pay for their staff.
“It means that it’s tighter for us over the Christmas season to try and figure out the budgets and for our managers to figure out how to pay the overhead, keep the lights on, as well as look after our staff,” Hilner said.
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Hilner said he runs into this problem every year around the December holidays, but the delay normally sets payments back by a few days. He said the gap this year is far too long — having to wait up to a month.
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“It’s a bigger gap which makes it a little bit harder to figure out logistics. It’s also a really hard time of year as we all know this is kind of cough, cold and flu season,” he said.
Grandin Medical Centre has the finances to be able to pay their staff for that month by tapping into other budgets. But Hilner said other clinics may not have that option.
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He’s frustrated that Alberta’s health-care system continues to crumble, after doing everything he’s asked to do by the province, he wants them to pick up their end of the deal.
“Given that it’s Christmas we don’t think it’s right to hold back on giving people what they’re due for the work that they’re doing.
“We just expect the same kind of thing from the government,” Hilner said.
Dr. Tom Noseworthy is a retired physician and works as a professor at the University of Calgary. He recognizes the province for being flexible by offering an alternative payment model but said they need to deliver appropriately.
“Doctors have to be treated with respect. And not paying them on time is pretty disrespectful,” Noseworthy said.
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Noteworthy said while physicians may be well paid, non-medical staff working at the clinic may not be. Regardless of pay, Noseworthy mentioned many clinics operate as small businesses and bills need to be paid promptly.
“They are no different. They have payment expectations, they have mortgages, they have various costs,” he explained.
“I would simply say this: do you think Alberta Health is not getting their salaries on time and the bureaucrats that work there?
“For them to go on holiday and not pay physicians that are on alternative payment plans, which is much like a salary in certain respects… I really think that signifies we’re really dealing with a rather broken organization,” he added.
Global News reached out to the province but has yet to receive a response.
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