Greater change necessary to combat discrimination in medicine
To the Editor:
I very much enjoyed our recent informal chat about the economy and healthcare in Alberta.
I’m writing you today to discuss the merits of Bill 30 as it relates to racism, discrimination, and physician compensation, and why as a rural generalist physician I support your governments direction for change, but more is needed.
Primum non nocere (“first, do no harm”) is one of the ethical cornerstones that supports appropriate patient centered medical care and appropriate professional behaviour by all physicians.
There is absolutely zero doubt in my mind that the far majority of Alberta physicians abide by this and the other pinnacles of medical ethics. Unfortunately, there are doctors who engage in acts of discrimination, harassment, racism, sexual harassment and bullying, purposefully and maliciously to advance their agendas. This unacceptable behaviour has occurred mostly without public knowledge, as a consequence of many doctors not taking our autonomy seriously enough by not aggressively disciplining unacceptable behaviour within our profession.
This must be corrected.
Speaking personally, myself, my doctor wife and young family have, and continue to experience all of these unacceptable behaviours, very shockingly from doctors in our area.
This unacceptable behaviour has been documented. Despite this, the doctors engaging in this behaviour seem to continue deliberately because of our “closed” profession.
I’m very pleased Bill 30 looks to balance the public interests and transparency of how doctors police themselves by increasing the number of public members appointed to our complaint review committees. The impact of the presence of public members will be measurable in the future. It may well help the AMA move assertively in dealing with unacceptable behaviour.
When Bill 30 was announced, the Alberta Medical Association immediately provided supportive statements for the patient centric updates that Bill 30 will bring. This resulted in the immediate call by a mob of doctors to other physicians to grab their pitchforks and torches and take a contrary position as the mob believed our AMA leadership was clearly out of their minds for supporting patient centric changes. How dare the leadership. Most physicians who supported patient centric care and Bill 30 were swiftly tarred and feathered over social media by the doctor mob.
There is no doubt that the current structure of our publicly funded health system is not sustainable. That is a fact. Most of our patients know this, and there is an expectation – actually a requirement, that as stewards of the public purse, physicians engage in changes to prevent a collapse of the system, rather than pursue actions that destabilize our system through bullying and fear mongering.
The doctor mob with political ties, wants the public to believe that 24 hours after Bill 30 receives royal assent, we will immediately be plunged into an Americanized, for-profit healthcare system where patients without money will die and the rich will be saved. They want the public to believe that doctors throughout Alberta will leave the province en mass, and abandon their patients, solely because they cannot afford to work in Alberta and will need to move elsewhere to maintain their standard of living, even though their earning potential in Alberta is still the highest in the country. Of course they dress up their argument by stating that physicians threatening to leave their patients is somehow standing up for those same patients in particular, and public health care in general. The duplicitous and contradictory nature of this, their primary argument, is staggering for professionals who at the core of their being, are guided by “first, do no harm.”
Many doctors have been contemplating leaving Alberta to be closer to their children, other family members, career changes, or other opportunities, and do not deserve to be smeared with the greed brush or counted in an exodus. They have made an individual choice, and are not part of a government conspiracy.
Premier, in May, I wrote an open letter to the Minister of Health that in part stated your government has the opportunity to put into place an “Alberta Health Advantage” while retaining a world class, publicly financed and administered health care system. I have read Bill 30 in its current form. It provides some opportunity for change, but more change is needed and I believe we cannot wait years.
I am a proud born and raised Albertan, dedicated to my profession and its delivery and practice in rural Alberta. I would be pleased to engage further with you, your Cabinet or Minister Shandro on this topic.
Dr. Rithesh Ram President, Physician & Founder Riverside Medical