Response to government announcement

February 20, 2020

President Christine Molnar

Dear Members:
 
I write to you today with great concern for our public health care system in Alberta. Today, the Minister of Health announced that government is ending its master agreement with physicians and enacting the 11 consultation proposals they tabled in November of last year.

I wanted to share with you the following statement that we have issued in response:

Government has chosen to terminate a viable contract before the end of term. I believe this is the first time this has happened in Canada. It is a first for Alberta and a sad day for health care. This fundamentally goes against a belief that Albertans hold in common: the idea that one should stand by their contracts and live up to their word. Honoring agreements with health care workers is sacrosanct with Albertans. In a recent survey of over 1,300 Alberta patients, 85% said it is important for the government to honor health care contracts.

The AMA made several offers and significant moves throughout the negotiating process. We offered substantial short term savings, worth over 3%  – which equates to over $150 million in savings a year. We appreciate that there was still a way to go, but we had informed the minister that we were going to put another offer forward tomorrow. At the same time, we indicated that we would be suggesting a movement to arbitration.

This is important as there has to be a way for physicians and government to resolve disputes in a reasonable way. It is in the best interest of the public for that mechanism to be available. In the current negotiations, for example, there is a significant difference of opinion related to physician payments in Alberta versus that in other provinces. We believe one of the reasons why government has chosen to go the way they have today is that they know they are not on solid ground.

We are concerned with many aspects of this move from government, including the heavy burden being placed on family physicians and their patients. It became clear today that government is not interested in collaboration. Moving forward will be difficult and I am genuinely concerned for patients. This attack on physicians – particularly the disproportionate attack on family physicians – is disturbing. 

The Board is meeting this evening and I will have much more to say on this issue in the coming days. 

Please let me know what you think in the following ways:

  • Communicate with me privately and directly by email if you would like a reply: president@albertadoctors.org 
  • Comment publicly below on this President’s Letter (please be aware that comments are public, i.e., not members-only, even if you are logged in as a member).

In your service, 

Christine P. Molnar, MD, FRCPC 
President, Alberta Medical Association

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