Dr. Amy Tan has worked as a family physician in Alberta for 16 years.
Tan, who practices at a teaching clinic and provides palliative care in Calgary, had planned to keep working in the province for many more — at least until her 11-year old son finished high school.
But she said her plans changed in the spring when a prolonged and bitter dispute began between the United Conservative government and the province’s doctors.
Tan, also an associate professor at the University of Calgary’s Cumming School of Medicine, is taking a new job in Victoria on Nov. 15.
“I’m very grateful I have the choice, when I know a lot of my colleagues and other Albertans don’t,” Tan said in a phone interview from Calgary.
“The truth of the matter is I wouldn’t have pursued other opportunities had it not been for what’s going on.”
Tan said she loves her work in Calgary, but it couldn’t buffer her from the political fight — particularly during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The dispute started in February when Health Minister Tyler Shandro tore up a master pay agreement with the Alberta Medical Association.
Total physician compensation remains flat at $5.4 billion in the government’s 2020-21 budget, but a new funding framework changes how doctors are paid.
Doctors have said it will force hundreds of clinics across the province, particularly in rural areas, to reduce staff or close.
42% of Alberta doctors considering leaving the province for work: survey
Some changes were reversed during the pandemic, but a July survey by the medical association showed at least 40 per cent of physicians have considered moving out of the province.
Shandro has called it questionable that doctors would leave for other provinces, where they would earn less money. His press secretary, Steve Buick, added this week that he doesn’t believe the “rhetoric” that doctors are leaving.
“There is no trend of overall losses of doctors,” Buick said.
The College of Physicians and Surgeons of Alberta said it does its annual registration at the end of December, so it doesn’t have current statistics. Buick said Alberta Health has access to the college’s quarterly figures, which he said show the number of doctors working in Alberta hasn’t changed.
“Hundreds come and go every year,” he said. “Overall, we’ve had net gains.”
In 2019-20, he said, 382 doctors left Alberta and 644 started _ for a net gain of 262. The latest data through June shows the same trend of net increases, said Buick.
He also provided an Alberta Health Services risk assessment from Sept. 25 that showed 80 rural doctors had provided a notice of intent to leave, but said only 12 of them have given formal notice.
“We do not expect shortages overall or in any specific community, apart from the normal staffing challenges in smaller centres,” Buick said.
Still, the Alberta College of Family Physicians said it’s hearing from an increasing number of doctors who are weighing their options.
“Physicians don’t feel like they are a valued part of the team,” said executive director Terri Potter. “They’ve been told publicly that they are greedy.
“Physicians are just feeling powerless.”
The advocacy organization, which represents about 5,200 family doctors, has started an online campaign to showcase the importance and value of their role.
Potter said some doctors have taken steps to get licences in other provinces and others have decided to retire two or three years early.
“There will be a lot of movement,” said Potter, who noted many who are leaving did their medical training in Alberta. “I really worry there will be a bit of brain drain.”
Dr. Cian Hackett, a family physician, moved to Sylvan Lake, and started working in Rimbey two years ago after graduating from the University of Alberta. He said he planned to stay in central Alberta until retirement.
“When the government changes started coming out, my wife and I talked about would we consider moving to a different province,” he said. “We decided for the time being to split our time between Alberta and Ontario.”
Hackett said he and his wife, who’s a nurse, plan to move to Ontario after the pandemic ends.
“We don’t see an Alberta that matches our values — one that values public health care and education, vulnerable populations,” he said. “We’ve stopped seeing it as a place with an economic or moral future when we think of raising a family.”
Hackett said he’s not only concerned about the lack of stability for his practice without a master agreement, but also the government’s moves to reduce supervised drug consumption sites and review eligibility criteria for the Assured Income for the Severely Handicapped.
“There’s no shortage of job opportunities — all of which pay well,” he said. “The government wants to make it about physician pay.
“At a certain point, it becomes about other things.”
Tan, who also did her training in Alberta, said the pandemic has been stressful enough for doctors and attacks from the government have made it worse.
“I only had so much fight in me left and I needed my bandwidth back to actually do the work, to contribute to society in the way I want to.”
© 2020 The Canadian Press
Winnipeg beverage rooms allowed to stay open as province reconsiders restrictions – Global News
The province of Manitoba has done a 180 on restrictions in Winnipeg that were just hours old, allowing business operating under the “beverage room” licence to remain open for the following two weeks.
Beverage rooms are classified as food and beverage establishments connected to hotels.
The increased measures brought to Winnipeg on Monday morning originally called for all beverage rooms and “entertainment facilities” such as casinos and bingo halls to shut down for two weeks as COVID-19 cases in Manitoba’s capital continued a sharp climb.
“Following further review, facilities licensed as beverage rooms under the Liquor, Gaming and Cannabis Control Act have not been closed under the order. All other requirements for licensed premises will still apply,” the province said in a news release on Monday night.
Manitoba Hotel Association president Scott Jocelyn tells 680 CJOB it’s a wrong righted by the province, but it’s only a small victory for his members.
“We still have to go back to ‘orange-level’ restrictions, but it at least gives our people a glimmer of hope to try and carve out an existence.”
Under the orange level on the pandemic response system, all food and beverage establishments must operate at 50 per cent capacity or less, stop service at 10 p.m., and have all patrons out of their establishment by 11 p.m.
Additional restrictions for beverage rooms include sound restricted to 80 decibels, as well as dancing, pool and darts banned.
“So much of what we do is impacted,” Jocelyn explains. “Other businesses can start to get their feet back under them, but they’re not dealing with face-to-face interaction like we do.”
“When the government has protocols limiting travel, that doesn’t put people in our guest rooms. When we can’t have events, we can’t use those spaces. It’s body blow after body blow.”
Jocelyn is still looking to the government to provide sector-specific financial support so his members can feel more confident they’ll make it through the end of the pandemic.
“You can’t treat us like everyone else. We’re different, and it’s going to take [hotels] longer to recover than most other sectors. We’re going to need help.”
As for reaction from his members, Jocelyn says it’s a mixed bag.
“It’s a small victory today. We’re nowhere near home, but it’s important the government corrected where they were going. They gave us a glimmer of hope and we’ll keep pushing on the help we need.”
The new orders go into effect at 10 p.m. Monday and will remain until at least 11 p.m. on Nov. 2.
Winnipeg business community pleads for sector-specific support as new restrictions take hold
© 2020 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.
U.S. Justice Department files antitrust lawsuit against Google – CBC.ca
The United States Justice Department on Tuesday sued Google for antitrust violations, alleging that it abused its dominance in online search and advertising to stifle competition and harm consumers.
The lawsuit marks the government’s most significant act to protect competition since its groundbreaking case against Microsoft more than 20 years ago. It could be an opening salvo ahead of other major government antitrust actions, given ongoing investigations of major tech companies including Apple, Amazon and Facebook at both the Justice Department and the Federal Trade Commission.
“Google is the gateway to the internet and a search advertising behemoth,” U.S. Deputy Attorney General Jeff Rosen told reporters. “But as the antitrust complaint filed today explains, it has maintained its monopoly power through exclusionary practices that are harmful to competition.”
Lawmakers and consumer advocates have long accused Google, whose corporate parent Alphabet Inc. has a market value just over $1 trillion, of abusing its dominance in online search and advertising to stifle competition and boost its profits. Critics contend that multibillion-dollar fines and mandated changes in Google’s practices imposed by European regulators in recent years weren’t severe enough and that structural changes are needed for Google to change its conduct.
Google responded immediately via tweet: “Today’s lawsuit by the Department of Justice is deeply flawed. People use Google because they choose to — not because they’re forced to or because they can’t find alternatives.”
The case was filed in federal court in Washington, D.C. It alleges that Google uses billions of dollars collected from advertisers to pay phone manufacturers to ensure Google is the default search engine on browsers. Eleven states will join the federal government in the lawsuit.
The Trump administration has long had Google in its sights. A top economic adviser to President Donald Trump said two years ago that the White House was considering whether Google searches should be subject to government regulation. Trump has often criticized Google, recycling unfounded claims by conservatives that the search giant is biased against conservatives and suppresses their viewpoints, interferes with U.S. elections and prefers working with the Chinese military over the Pentagon.
Google controls about 90 per cent of global web searches. The company has been bracing for the government’s action and is expected to fiercely oppose any attempt to force it to spin off its services into separate businesses.
The company, based in Mountain View, Calif., has long denied the claims of unfair competition. Google argues that although its businesses are large, they are useful and beneficial to consumers. It maintains that its services face ample competition and have unleashed innovations that help people manage their lives.
Argument for reining in Google has gathered force
Most of Google’s services are offered for free in exchange for personal information that helps it sell its ads. Google insists that it holds no special power forcing people to use its free services or preventing them from going elsewhere.
A recent report from a House judiciary subcommittee, following a year-long investigation into Big Tech’s market dominance, concluded that Google has monopoly power in the market for search. It said the company established its position in several markets through acquisition, snapping up successful technologies that other businesses had developed — buying an estimated 260 companies in 20 years.
The argument for reining in Google has gathered force as the company stretched far beyond its 1998 roots as a search engine governed by the motto “Don’t Be Evil.” It’s since grown into a diversified Goliath with online tentacles that scoop up personal data from billions of people via services ranging from search, video and maps to smartphone software. That data helps feed the advertising machine that has turned Google into a behemoth.
The company owns the leading web browser in Chrome, the world’s largest smartphone operating system in Android, the top video site in YouTube and the most popular digital mapping system. Some critics have singled out YouTube and Android as among Google businesses that should be considered for divestiture.
With only two weeks to election day, the Trump Justice Department is taking bold legal action against Google on an issue of rare bipartisan agreement. Republicans and Democrats have accelerated their criticism of Big Tech in recent months, although sometimes for different reasons. It’s unclear what the status of the government’s suit against Google would be if a Joe Biden administration were to take over next year.
The Justice Department sought support for its suit from states across the country that share concerns about Google’s conduct. A bipartisan coalition of 50 U.S. states and territories, led by Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, announced a year ago it was investigating Google’s business practices, citing “potential monopolistic behaviour.”
Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, South Carolina and Texas will join the lawsuit, according to court records.
Winnipegger with positive COVID-19 test reports six-day lag in contact tracing – CBC.ca
Two Winnipeg men who’ve tested positive for COVID-19 say they’ve lost faith in the province’s ability to do contact tracing properly.
The first, who found out he tested positive last Wednesday, says he still hasn’t been asked to provide his close contacts and hasn’t had any follow up from public health.
“They’re not handling it. There has been no contact tracing,” Aaron Lund, 46, said in an interview over Zoom Monday.
“With this being at the forefront of everything you see in the news these days, I guess maybe I had an expectation that there was more of a priority to it.”
Lund said he’s called Health Links twice, including on Monday, to inform them he hasn’t been asked to provide his contacts.
He said when a public health nurse called him last Wednesday — a day after he got tested — she told him to write down everyone he had been in contact with a week prior and be prepared to share that information in a follow-up call.
Lund said he is still struggling with a cough and has no smell. But his initial symptoms of fatigue, cold sweats and fever are gone. “It’s the weirdest thing,” he said.
Six-day lag for second man
The second man, who got a call on Oct. 13 informing him he had tested positive, said he wasn’t asked to provide contact tracing information until Monday — six days after a doctor told him he had the coronavirus.
“That’s a long time later to be doing contact tracing. I got a phone call last Tuesday and they could have given me my reference number [for the COVID Alert app] and they just didn’t,” said Jordan, a pseudonym for the man who CBC News has agreed not to identify to protect his private health information.
Jordan said he was surprised when a doctor called him on Oct. 13 but didn’t ask him to provide names of people he’d recently been around for contact tracing.
Then his phone rang again on Oct. 18. It was someone calling from a blocked number to tell him he had tested positive — something he already knew.
“It kind of put some fear in me because you kind of lose hope that they know what’s going on, because they had no idea that they had contacted me prior, and that makes me think — what else are they letting slip through the cracks?”
Jordan said the fact the health staffer on the other end of the phone once again didn’t ask for his recent contacts — or provide him with a code to enter in the federal government’s COVID Alert app — added to his fear.
He informed everyone he had been around, but wonders about others he had encounters with getting coffee, for example.
“At first I was relieved I got the phone call because I thought it was going to be a public health nurse that was going to give me more info, and then when I realized it was just kind of a repeat of the first call I felt kind of let down.”
Tracing needs to be quicker: Dr. Roussin
On Monday, while Jordan was speaking with CBC News over Zoom, his phone rang again.
The public health nurse appeared to have little to no information about Jordan’s case and asked if someone had completed a contact tracing investigation. He told her he had already received two calls from public health but no contact tracing was done.
She replied “I apologize for that. We’re trying a new system because we’re backlogged.” The nurse then completed the contact tracing.
Manitoba’s Chief Provincial Public Health Officer Dr. Brent Roussin told reporters Monday the province isn’t using a new system for contact tracing.
He said there is a strain on contact tracing because of rising numbers in Winnipeg. Roussin said the median time from when someone tests positive for COVID-19 and is phoned for contact tracing is 60 hours.
And while he said he wasn’t aware of Jordan’s case, he said he shouldn’t have had to wait as long as he did.
“Definitely that’s not our goal. We need to be contacting people, having them advise us of their contacts, getting contact notification much quicker than that,” Roussin said.
Red Cross to help with contact tracing
Roussin couldn’t say on Monday if the COVID Alert app, which went live in Manitoba on Oct. 1, has been successfully used or not in the province by someone who’s tested positive.
The public health nurse on the phone told Jordan because he’s been in isolation for 10 days, he no longer needs to quarantine despite the fact he still doesn’t have his sense of smell or taste back.
Even though Jordan’s been cleared to end his self-isolation, he doesn’t plan to leave his house anytime soon and isn’t sure when he’ll return to work.
“There’s a big stigma with this. Everybody knows through my work that I’ve got COVID because a lot of things got shut down, and people had to stay home while they got tested and everything like that, and they know where it came from and it’s going to be hard for them to accept me back into those places.”
Manitoba’s Opposition NDP is calling for the hiring of more contact tracers.
The party said in a statement Monday it has freedom of information documents that show during August, four health authorities outside Winnipeg employed 140 public health workers to do COVID-19 contact tracing.
Health Minister Cameron Friesen said in a statement the province has been increasing COVID testing capacity and has selected the Red Cross to provide additional contact tracing services.
“While the opposition continues to stoke fear, our government will continue to focus on protecting Manitobans.”
This story was possible in part thanks to Manitobans who filled out CBC’s survey about people who’ve tested positive for COVID-19. In it, we asked Manitobans to share how their diagnosis impacted their life.
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