The NDP Health critic believes the UCP government needs to restore trust with doctors if the province has any chance of resolving the acute shortage of family doctors.

David Shepherd says when the government tore up the master agreement with physicians, the province immediately started to hemorrhage doctors to the extent that even popular destinations like Cochrane have been severely impacted.

"The first thing that we need is to see an agreement between physicians and the Government of Alberta like exists in every other province in Canada. That would go a long way to supporting folks like Dr. (Brendan) Flowers who are working so hard to recruit.

"I've heard directly from physicians across the province and municipal leaders involved in recruitment that they've had people interested, looking and then they've said I can't come to a jurisdiction where I don't have that."

The agreement was shredded by then Health minister Tyler Shandro in February 2020  following the introduction of legislation in the fall of 2019.

He said the government immediately launched a focused campaign of fighting and smearing doctors.

"We saw them putting on quite a performance in the legislature and that laid the groundwork for a big destabilization in the relationship between physicians and the province. They tried to pour through a number of prominent changes in how physicians were paid, to the point where their own MLAs had to rebel against the Health Care minister because of the damage it was doing, particularly to rural areas and particularly family doctors."

He says the government's mishandling of the pandemic made the situation worse.

The Alberta Government repeatedly acted last among Canadian jurisdictions in its response to the pandemic, says Shepherd, appearing to put politics ahead of public health. He says the result deepened the impact and the result has been burnout suffered by many health care workers.

"Unfortunately, we've got a situation where the government has forced many doctors to choose early retirement, many have left the province, and now we're even seeing many young graduating doctors looking outside the province to begin their work."

Shepherd says that assault has quietly continued, despite the need to build a stable and trustworthy relationship with physicians.

"Behind closed doors, the Health Minister is continuing to try and roll back the wages of doctors and hospitals across the province, continuing to try and grind them down. We continue to see those doctors without a master agreement with any guarantee or nothing set out in an actual contract for how they're going to deal with a province."

He says the province also needs to address the overall pressure on the health system that has had ill effects upon all aspects of health care, from EMS to doctors to hospitals.