Manitoba welcomes Alberta doctors looking to relocate

CALGARY — Another prairie province is welcoming Alberta doctors who are considering working elsewhere due to tension with the provincial government.

The organization representing physicians in Manitoba said a couple of doctors from Alberta have contacted its office for help planning their relocation there, and encouraged others to make the switch as well. 

“Doctors Manitoba is very concerned about how physicians in Alberta are being targeted by the provincial government, and we’re not surprised that nearly half are looking to relocate,” a spokesperson with Doctors Manitoba said in a statement.

“While we hope the Alberta government will work with physicians to address their concerns, we are always happy to welcome physicians from other provinces to Manitoba.”

It’s not the first time Manitoba has looked to lure doctors from other provinces.

In the fall of 2019, the Manitoba government ran advertisements in Quebec aiming to recruit doctors and other civil servants who felt threatened by that province’s ban on religious symbols in the workplace.

The Manitoba government said the campaign had two clear objectives: to attract workers with bilingual skills and show their support for the rights and freedoms of minorities.

The Canadian Press reported that in the weeks following, 29 resumes were received, including 17 from Quebec and 12 from other provinces or countries.

A recent Alberta Medical Association survey indicated 42 per cent of Alberta doctors were considering leaving the province due to the ongoing dispute over billing with the government. 

Concerns with Alberta’s health minister including a new physician pay structure and Bill 21, which allows the government to break contracts whenever it wants.

That drove a family physician practicing in Bragg Creek out of the province.

“If you have an agreement and one party doesn’t need to stick to it then the agreement doesn’t mean anything,” said Dr. Annelies Noordman.

She moved to Alberta from the Netherlands in 2012 but said government policies made her so concerned about the future, she made the difficult decision of leaving her 2,200 patients and uprooting her family. 

“If this is what the people of Alberta want well then it,s obvious to us that we don’t fit in,” she said.

“Or the people of Alberta don’t want this, but then they need to speak up because this is serious what’s happening.”

In July, Noordman and her family moved back to the Netherlands. She said she will make much less money working as a doctor in that country but it is worth it for her family.

“Go somewhere else and provide care in a way I think it should be provided … or I sacrifice my own values and give lower quality of care because that’s going to be the only way to keep the clinic open,” she said.

Sandra Azocar, executive director with Friends of Medicare, said it would be a shame to lose doctors to another province or country.

“I think the government needs to shake their heads and get back to the bargaining table and start treating our physicians with a lot more respect,” she said.

The Alberta Medical Association filed a Charter challenge for bad faith bargaining and not allowing physicians arbitration.

The Alberta government filed a statement of defence saying budget shortfalls led to their decisions about doctor pay.

With files from The Canadian Press