Earlier this month, the Government of Alberta released data on how much they paid out to physicians during the 2020–2021 fiscal year.
The Distribution of Gross Payments to Physicians by Payment Range and Specialty not only shows the total amount paid out, but also how much was paid out per specialty.
The short story is that the government, dominated by the United Conservative Party, is paying physicians less now than it was prior to the UCP being elected.
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Now, keep in mind that gross payments isn’t the same as the doctors’ salaries. It’s how much they receive to run their practice. Think of it as business revenue, which they then use to pay for utilities, licensing, rent/leases, equipment, supplies, nurses, administrative staff, clinic maintenance, and so on. And, of course, some of it goes to their own salaries.
In fact, the data tables themselves note that
These statistics cannot be used as an accurate measure of a physician’s income, because they do not include other sources of income. The figures quoted are payments from which physicians pay business expenses, such as office and staff expenses.
With that in mind, during the 2020–2021 budget year, Alberta spent $3,625,400,111 in gross payments to physicians. Compare that to the NDP’s last year in power, 2018–2019, when the government spent $3,779,015,740.
That’s a difference of $153.6 million.
Plus, that money was paid to more physicians. In 2018–2019, there were 9,415 physicians who received gross payments. That increased to 9,642 in 2020–2021.
When we look at gross payments on a per physician basis, we see that in the 2018–2019 budget year, physicians received an average of $401,382.45 from the government.
Two years later, that number dropped to $376,000.84. That basically means that the average doctor received over $25,000 less to spend on their clinics.
Now, granted, that’s for all physicians, not just family doctors. So how did things change for family doctors specifically during those two years?
Well, during the 2018–2019 budget year, the NDP government paid out $1,609,596,954 to 5,268 general/family physicians, for an average of $305,542.32 per physician.
Two years later, the UCP paid out $1,471,224,972 to 5,371 general/family physicians, averaging $273,920.12 per physician. That’s a difference of $31,622.20 per physician.
So, it was even worse for family physicians than it was for all physicians in general.
Now, keep in mind that this doesn’t include inflation.
At the end of March 2019, Alberta’s consumer price index was 143.7, and two years later, it was at 147.7. This means that things cost 2.78% more in March 2021 than they did in March 2019.
So, not only did doctors have less money to spend on keeping their clinics running, but the cost of keeping their clinics running had increased.