In this together

May 5, 2020

Dear Members:

Thank you for your rapid response to the campaign the AMA recently launched enabling you to encourage your MLA and Health Minister Tyler Shandro to put Patients First® and get back to the bargaining table. As of today, over 1,000 physicians have signed up and the numbers keep growing. If you haven’t had a look yet, please visit our campaign page. This phase of the campaign enables physician voices to be heard. Our next phase invites Albertans to participate.

Since the government tore up our contract on February 20, 2020, demonstrations of physician unity have been essential. Through our campaign sign-ups, Twitter and Facebook posts, in emails, phone calls and (socially distanced) hospital hallway conversations, physicians are standing together in our demand for a negotiated agreement with access to third-party arbitration.

Today, I have written to the Minister. It is a letter jointly signed by physician leaders including Section Presidents, PCN Leads Executive, Academic Medicine and Health Services Program Council Co-Chairs, and the Zone Medical Staff Association Presidents. This declaration informs government that the AMA remains as the exclusive representative of Alberta physicians in all dealings with the Alberta government. 
The signatories:

  • Unanimously reject any unilateral actions taken by this government with respect to physician services
  • Will not be entering into discussions without representation from the AMA
  • Have designated the AMA as their representative on all matters including, but not limited to:
    • physician compensation
    • terms and conditions of Alternative Relationship Plans 
    • the Schedule of Medical Benefits

The message is clear; the AMA is more than an organization. It is the collective shout of our 14,000 members. We will not be divided. 

When negotiations started in November 2019, government introduced 11 consultation proposals which sought to find savings from many different aspects of physician compensation, in addition to a proposed budget management model to create fixed budgetary certainty of $5.4 billion annually. The consultation proposals included planned changes to complex modifier codes, annual care plans, daily visit caps, good faith claims, AHS overhead and stipends, to name a few. 

While most of the consultation proposals in the Physician Funding Framework have been walked back – at least temporarily – government continues to push physicians to make decisions about ARPs vs fee-for-service in their practices. Issues related to daily visit caps, good faith claims and other consultation proposals remain.

We are engaged with the AHS to work on the physician on-call program. We seek to be involved in the assessment and redesign of the AH/AHS overhead urban z codes and the stipends. 

Perhaps the most important unresolved issue of the Physician Funding Framework is the budget management model currently in place, which allows for unilateral imposition of changes to physician compensation by government at any time. 

The termination of our contract required an extraordinary response and therefore, on April 9, 2020, the AMA filed our charter challenge lawsuit against government.  

I have received some queries about government’s response. Normally a defendant has 20 days to file a statement of defense, but on April 21 the Court suspended all filing deadlines until May 31, 2020. As a result, government’s defense is now not due until June 9, 2020. Government requested a further extension to June 30, 2020. A request like this is not unusual and cannot reasonably be denied; therefore we did not oppose the request. We did determine that the extension to file the defense would not delay any other timelines in the litigation. Government must now file by June 30, 2020. I will keep you updated on any progress.

I encourage you to make your voice heard! Please take the time to sign up for our campaign.

In your service

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The AMA advances patient-centered, quality care by advocating for and supporting physician leadership and wellness.