Update on government negotiations

November 15, 2021

Dr. Vesta Michelle Warren, AMA President

Dear Members,
 
The Board of Directors last met October 28-29. The ongoing discussions with government toward seeking a new agreement were a major focus of the meeting. Over the past year we have invited physician leaders to join us for these sessions to enrich the Board’s discussions. Once again, we were very appreciative of the time and engagement of these representatives.
 
You may recall that following a Special Representative Forum meeting on September 9, members received an Update on Negotiations (member login required to view) via a President’s Letter on September 15. The regular Fall Representative Forum then held in-depth discussions September 24-25, not only about our negotiations but also the broad range of activities that the Board is overseeing. Only some of these directly link to negotiations, but all are part of the context to be considered, including:

  • What has been happening at the negotiations table and the state of the ongoing legal challenge.
  • Related representation activities (including stipends, Z-codes, Physician Compensation Advisory Committee) and the AMA’s proposals to bring all compensation discussions under a central, structured framework.
  • Public advocacy about COVID-19 and the burgeoning care deficit.

With the support of the RF, and in line with the plans that they endorsed, we are moving forward. I don’t want to diminish the challenges that still face us. They are considerable. I am, though, encouraged by discussions that I have had with Minister Copping and that our negotiators have reported. The Minister has expressed a move toward interest-based bargaining as a way of breaking the standstill we have reached in negotiations. This approach is one that encourages a constructive and collaborative approach and may improve relationships.
 
I also take as a positive sign government’s follow-through on a commitment made in the July 2 joint announcement between government and the AMA. At that time, government stated that the restriction on new billing numbers (PRAC IDs) would not begin on April 1, 2022, as provided for in 2019 legislation. Last week, government tabled an amendment to the Alberta Health Care Insurance Act to formalize that promise. This pause to allow productive discussions is very important.
 
I will keep you posted in the weeks ahead. We also need further discussion about what comes next in the COVID-19 battle and how we will begin to recover from a care deficit that is broader and deeper than could have been imagined even a year ago. Recently, AHS reported that 15,000 surgeries have been delayed in the fourth wave. This will have an immense impact across acute and primary care.
 
Solutions are needed and they will not be simple. We know from our own member survey that physicians are stressed and experiencing financial difficulties in their practices. We are also seeing changes in physician registration statistics that support anecdotal reports that some physicians are leaving. Stabilizing physician practices is a key piece to any long-term recovery from the care deficit. I will have more to say on these topics in upcoming letters.
 
Thank you to those of you who have been reaching out to me. Your emails are always welcome on these matters or anything else that is on your mind. You can reach me in the following ways:

  • Communicate with me privately and directly by email if you would like a reply: president@albertadoctors.org.
  • Comment publicly 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).

Sincerely,

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

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