Member survey results and an urgent Omicron meeting

December 22, 2021

Dr. Michelle Warren, AMA President

Dear Members,

In this letter:

  • August member survey results (What can the AMA do for you?)
  • Emergency COVID-19 meeting 
  • Best wishes for 2022

What can the AMA do for you?

As 2021 ends, it seemed a good time to provide feedback on what we heard through our August member survey in which we asked: What can the AMA do for you? With over 1,300 respondents, there were more than 400 pages of survey comments. I am grateful for this insight. Members identified these themes:

  • Seek fair compensation 
  • Negotiate a master agreement
  • Be our advocate 
  • COVID-19
  • Physician wellness and support

There are various important topics within each theme. I could write pages on each, but I will keep things brief today. You will find most of them addressed if you visit the President’s Letter archive. By “addressed” I don’t mean that any of these have been fully managed, but we keep moving forward and working toward solutions. It is the Board’s job to maintain momentum in all of these areas.
 
NOTE: We know members receive a lot of written material from the AMA, and while these communications are necessary and we do try to be as discerning as possible about what we send, there is no denying the sheer volume can be somewhat daunting. If you prefer, you can view this update in video format.   
 
Fair compensation and negotiation of a new agreement: We continue to see encouraging signs from the minister and Alberta Health negotiators with respect to an interest in a collaborative relationship and negotiations designed to solve problems instead of just taking positions. In recent weeks, we were pleased to learn that the December 31 deadline for implementation of Z-codes, Alberta Health Services overhead policy and many AHS stipend payments has been extended. We have been pushing hard for these extensions, but not just for the sake of a delay. We believe the extra time granted must be dedicated to aligning all elements of physician compensation into a comprehensive and integrated framework. This includes fee-for-service (including virtual care codes), clinical ARPs, AHS stipends, overhead policies or any other alternative funding arrangements, as well as Physician Compensation Advisory Committee processes. A framework like this should be part of a negotiated agreement that provides for a consistent, strategic approach to compensation. That means knowing not only how we are paid and how much, but also what we are trying to achieve for patient care with respect to the payment method.
 
Regarding fair compensation, our negotiations objectives include applying income equity principles to decision making, while taking elements of time, training, overhead and market factors into account. Work is moving forward on the Income Equity Initiative (member login required). The severity of the fourth wave of COVID-19 made it impossible to complete the hours of work study (member login required) in September. In accordance with direction of the Representative Forum, the AMA Compensation Committee has proceeded anyway, using best available data to propose an interim, equity-based process for any allocation decisions that may be required coming out of negotiations (if and when they occur). We will keep membership informed following further direction provided to AMACC at the December Board meeting.
 
Advocacy: In my December 15 President’s Letter you saw plans for important advocacy in 2022 regarding the COVID-19 care deficit. The effects of the pandemic are so widespread and so deep that it will take great focus, resources and support from all parties in the health care system to even attempt recovery. Advocacy is also needed on related urgent issues such as the opioid crisis. The horrifying climb in opioid deaths before and during COVID-19 deserves the highest priority from all parties. I am pleased to see the AMA’s Section of Addiction Medicine working with government on some strategies. There is still much more to be done. We will be engaging on this topic, building on motions from the Representative Forum and coordinating with stakeholders, such as the Edmonton Zone Medical Staff Association’s Opioid Poisoning Committee.
 
COVID-19, physician wellness and support: I group these topics together given our current situation. Burnout and fatigue from 21 months of the pandemic have been driving higher demand for the Physician and Family Support Program. We are expanding services to address burnout and issues like workplace safety. Our efforts toward a new agreement are a huge part of supporting physician wellness.
 
This includes doing everything we can to ensure that community practices – particularly those struggling in rural areas – are stable and sustainable. With continued financial pressures, the loss of physicians and ongoing uncertainty, community practices are finding themselves in really difficult circumstances, and some have found it necessary to close or make significant changes. In acute care, members also need the AMA behind them for important discussions about changing compensation arrangements of many kinds. We will continue our advocacy and government discussions in an effort to achieve value for patients and fairness for physicians.

Emergency Omicron Meeting

On the topic of COVID-19, the AMA and Alberta College of Family Physicians are co-hosting a webinar tomorrow, Thursday, December 23 at noon to discuss the latest developments in our province with respect to Omicron and how primary care can prepare. 
 
This webinar is focused on primary care aspects but is open to all members interested in attending. You can learn more and register online. The session will be recorded and posted to the AMA website for those who are unable to attend it live.

Best wishes for 2022

I will be in touch before the end of the year if there is news to report regarding these topics or any further developments in our discussions with government. May the new year bring us success in that area. I am sure we all say goodbye to 2021 with hopes for better things to come in 2022.
 
If you will be working through the holiday season, thank you for being there for your colleagues and your patients. If you will be home with family and friends, enjoy every minute. I wish each of you safety, health, stability and satisfaction in this career we have chosen.
 
You will hear from me again soon. In the meantime, you may get in touch by:

 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.