Discussions with government enter a new phase

January 20, 2022

Dr. Vesta Michelle Warren, AMA PresidentDear Members,

Discussions between the Alberta Medical Association and government are entering a new stage and a joint statement will be issued today.

Our ability to reach this point meant first addressing a number of matters that I’ve written to you about, e.g., virtual code changes (January 7), stipend programs delay (December 10) and Z-code and Alberta Health Services overhead policy (December 3).

As we commence formal negotiations, we will be taking a different approach than in the past. We are meeting this week with facilitator Rick Wilson, whom the parties have agreed to appoint. These first sessions will prepare both teams to engage in interest-based negotiations. I like this approach that encourages the parties to find wins for both sides, addressing root problems instead of simply presenting positions.

The issues referenced in the President’s Letters noted above were all important to address prior to moving into formal negotiations. These are things that would have had potential to disrupt discussions. Dealing with them at this time also demonstrates that physicians and government can work together on matters affecting the health care system.

We have made some progress and in making the joint announcement today, I want to thank Minister Copping and his team for their collaboration. What we have achieved includes:

  • Ongoing significant collaboration and consultation with the AMA around COVID-19 and the optimal roles and processes for managing the pandemic in the community and acute care, while working to align messaging for providers and patients.
  • Two virtual fee code improvements went into effect January 1, 2022. Please note that we are still talking with government about other changes that we have proposed. 
  • Physician support programs funded by Alberta Health and administered by the AMA (including Parental Leave, Physician and Family Support, Compassionate Assistance, Physician Locum and Accelerating Change Transformation Team) are planned to continue for the next fiscal year, including the pre-existing condition that government provide six months’ notice for any termination. This continuance provision is important to provide some security as we discuss potential new arrangements that may arise out of negotiations.
  • The AMA obtained a delay on planned changes to AHS stipend programs, Z-code fee reductions and AHS overhead policy changes, allowing time to negotiate a comprehensive, strategic compensation framework (including income equity) that delivers value for patients and fairness for physicians. Members may also be wondering about what is happening with the Physician Compensation Advisory Committee that provides advice and recommendations to the minister. There are still some concerns to address, but both parties agree that the minister must consult with the AMA under legislation for any recommendations he considers. 

You will be kept well informed about what happens going forward. I will let you know how the facilitated sessions go and what will take place thereafter. Please keep an eye on your inbox. Since we can’t yet meet in person, I’d like to hold some virtual meetings with members for information sharing and learning. I will be reaching out to physician leaders and sections to explore getting together in the next while.

The Board appreciates the wise guidance that members and physician leaders continue to provide. There is still a difficult road ahead. I’m encouraged that we’ve set out in a spirit of collaboration and with hopes for a better relationship between government and the physicians of Alberta.

Stay well and safe. You may get in touch with me directly by email, if you would like a reply: 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.