Provincial budget

February 27, 2020

AMA President - Dr. Christine Molnar

Dear Members:

Government has tabled its second provincial budget. The budget reflects the devastating cuts to physician payments that were announced last week and the hostile action of this ministry in tearing up our Alberta Medical Association contract. The budget gives the impression that “there’s nothing to see here” and physician compensation is portrayed as frozen. Physician compensation is anything but frozen. Once again, government is misleading Albertans about what they are doing. What they call a freeze is a massive cut of 20% or more for many physicians – including those in hospital-based practices and those providing primary care in medical homes (most acutely in rural Alberta). These changes will be tremendously harmful to physician practice, the Alberta health care system and, most importantly, Alberta patients.
 
For many months government has used misleading data, purporting that Alberta doctors earn far more than our provincial counterparts. How much more depends on the week and the spokesperson. At times they’ve said Alberta physicians are paid 35% more than in other provinces, sometimes 24%, sometimes 15%. Government seems unsure what numbers they should use. 
 
No matter what number they quote, we fundamentally disagree with their methodology which has resulted in misleading data.  We retained an independent consultant to help us bring objective and accurate information to the negotiating table. Government has refused to budge. 
 
Stalled negotiations are not uncommon. That’s why dispute resolution, as specified for physicians in the Canada Health Act, is so important. Right now, AMA and the government should be sitting with an arbitrator seeking common understanding from which an agreement could be reached. Instead government tore up the AMA Agreement and refused arbitration. Government claims their position is rock solid, so why are they are unwilling to allow an independent third party to make an assessment and decision?
 
Government’s data makes no sense. Government’s approach to physicians is inappropriate and counterproductive. Treating us like a problem to be ruthlessly managed is not acceptable. Most importantly, we know that government’s changes to the health care system will cause immense harm to patients. We must stand firm in our resolve to advocate for our patients and our colleagues.
 
Thank you for your support and confidence bestowed on the Board of Directors. I know from my correspondence that many of you are experiencing heightened stress at this time. I would ask us all to reach out and support each other as best we can.
 
Emotions are running high right now. That’s easy to spot if you spend time on social media! I want to thank the many physicians who have participated. I have been so impressed that physicians, while deeply concerned and anxious for their future and their patients, still communicate their thoughts to others in a professional and respectful manner. 
 
We are moving forward and resolution may lie some distance ahead. We have the best chance of success when we stand united.
 
In your service,
 
Christine P. Molnar, MD, FRCPC
President, Alberta Medical Association

3 comments

Commenting on this page is closed.

  • #1

    John A. Seim

    Physician

    12:01 PM on February 29, 2020

    I began my medical practice in Fort MacMurray in 1985, with the intention that this would be a short-term learning experience, after which I would return to my own home province of Ontario. It was immediately apparent that Alberta would benefit from a programme like Ontario which prorated medical fee for service payments according to whether a physician were to practice in an underserviced community versus in a community that already had a sufficient supply. For some reason, the Alberta Government NEVER was able to recognize what underserviced communities were, was NEVER prepared to admit that adjusting fee-for-service premiums might attract physicians to underserviced communities, and certainly was NEVER prepared to discuss either of the previous points. This state of affairs was only worsened when Klein eliminated local hospital boards and subsequently consolidated boards in such a way as to become increasingly deaf to the needs of particular communities (ie outside of the Edmonton/Calgary Regions). Well, after 23 years spent in Fort Mac the situation never changed! All these years later the Alberta Government is going back to the dim and distant past when antagonism drove so many physicians away and when whatever small progress that was made is now being erased.

  • #2

    Cheryl Court

    Member of the public

    12:45 PM on March 02, 2020

    As a very concerned member of the public, I'd like to know if there is anything I can do to help. For what it's worth, I'd also like to publicly share my support for all medical professionals in Alberta and thank you all for standing up for the people of Alberta, especially since it seems the government is not.

  • #3

    Anonymous

    Member of the public

    4:14 PM on March 02, 2020

    The provincial budget is nobody's money and everybody's money. In such cases, nobody behaves as if they are accountable for the expenditure, neither the govt. nor the organizations spending the money such as in health care. The govt wasted a ton of money - as has happened in the last 40 years with the revenue from oil. Quoting that salaries have always been higher in Alberta is hanging on to outdated economic realities. Right now the province is bankrupt. Expecting similar salaries as before is not appropriate. I think minister Shandro is doing the right thing. But that doesn't mean the UCP govt is doing the right thing. Giving 4.7 billion tax break to corporations is inappropriate. The reason they quote is - it increases jobs. But in the same move, they slashed thousands of jobs in the province. Does the UCP govt think that the public is not smart enough to see through these false statements? The same way, everybody in health care knows how much wastage happens, how much some doctors (very few maybe) abuse the system, but nobody is courageous enough to point it out. I hope minister Shandro's move is eventually to optimize the expenditure. But I may be wrong.

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