Alberta budget; Engaging on negotiations, income equity and advocacy

February 25, 2022

Dr. Vesta Michelle Warren, AMA President

Dear Members,

Provincial Budget

Yesterday, government released its 2022-23 budget which featured substantial investment in health care. It is good to see government paying attention to health care in a concrete fashion. I also appreciate references made in budget documents to interest-based negotiations with physicians, and our common interests such as quality of care, health care sustainability and stability of physician practices.

Having said that, I note that there is another element needed to make most effective use of the budget dollars: we require a significant health human resource strategy. There are growing shortages for health care providers of all kinds, including physicians. This is a situation facing not only Alberta, but Canada and the world. Here at home, we will need to pay close attention and give priority to health human resource planning in the years ahead. Our province must provide a stable and welcoming environment to recruit and retain the people who will provide the quality care Albertans need and deserve.

Engaging on negotiations and income equity

As we move into interest-based negotiations, continuing to engage with members is extremely important to the Board. Input from governance leaders (through the RF and sections), and from members-at-large has allowed the AMA to find our way back to the table and determine the physician interests to be brought forward. Early meetings with government so far have been encouraging, and the negotiating teams met this week and will do so again next week. As things progress, we will need to keep you updated and hear from you.

At the governance level, the Spring RF was scheduled for March 11 and 12. We’ve considered whether that meeting should be held virtually once again, as well as what we would need from the RF at that time. We have decided to take a two-part approach given the continued uncertainty around COVID-19 and the work that needs to be done.

The RF Part One will address several major priorities for members: (i) negotiations; (ii) income equity; and (iii) advocacy. The RF needs to be kept well informed on what is unfolding, and the Board needs RF oversight and commentary. Giving updates, laying out next steps and gathering RF input will therefore be the major purpose of a one-day virtual event on March 11.

For RF Part Two, we anticipate that the next few months will provide a sense of the outlook for negotiations and the possible shape of an agreement. At about the same time, a full proposal on the interim income equity approach will also be ready for consideration. RF direction on both these matters will be critical. Accordingly, we will convene a two-day in-person meeting May 13-14 (COVID-19 situation permitting).

While governance leaders are hard at work, the Board wants to keep all members appropriately informed and engage with you to gather input from the front lines. We will be planning for such opportunities and will let you know as we nail down the details. You can expect webinars and other knowledge-sharing opportunities.

Engaging on advocacy

I wrote recently that the Joint Physician Advocacy Committee has been tasked by the Board to help guide how the AMA advocates publicly. Our overall focus is laying out what recovery from the COVID-19 care deficit will involve. We will need to hear from many voices to truly understand what is happening in physician practices and how patient care has been impacted.

JPAC has begun facilitating the collection of stories and information from different parts of the profession. Our resulting advocacy will help patients unpack what is happening in health care. We are also hoping to identify ideas – with partners and stakeholders and to inform negotiations – for resolution, innovation and solutions.

Stay tuned as we compile this information and begin sharing it out in the months ahead. I want to extend an offer to all members: If you have ideas or suggestions for advocacy issues or possible solutions to problems facing physicians, our patients or the system at large, please reach out by email to jpac@albertadoctors.org.

I am always happy to hear from you, on this or on any topic. Reach me at president@albertadoctors.org.

Sincerely,

Vesta Michelle Warren, MD, CCFP, FCFP
President, Alberta Medical Association
 

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