Politics
Alberta doctors get pay hike

AB Health Minister Fred Horne speaks to the media regarding pay increases for doctors in Edmonton, Nov. 16, 2012.

Credits: Codie McLachlan/Edmonton Sun/QMI Agency

JACKIE L. LARSON | QMI AGENCY

EDMONTON — Alberta's doctors — who are already among the highest paid in the country — are getting another pay hike.

But, according to the Alberta Medical Association (AMA), the hike is nothing more than bad medicine.
Alberta Health Minister Fred Horne rolled out the hike unilaterally Friday. It includes $500 million worth of changes to physician pay after 20 months of talks with the AMA.

"It represents our best offer and all the money that we have to work with as a government," Horne said. "I had laid out the best the government could do. The AMA was looking for something considerably more than that and it was clear to me that we weren't going to be able to bridge that gap.”

The numbers presented to reporters Friday don't tell nearly the whole story, said AMA president Dr. Michael Giuffre.

"The devil's in the details," said Giuffre.

Friday's program outlines a complicated formula that pays doctors one lump-sum bonus of 2.5% of their 2011-12 billings, a zero increase for 2012-13 and cost-of-living increases through 2016.

However, $120 million in the Business Cost Program and Retention Benefit Program will go to "family practice and primary health care," or Premier Alison Redford's new Family Care Clinics (FCC)— a primary care model not physician run or owned, which relies more heavily on allied health professionals.

Additionally, the $12 per-patient hike Horne touted actually goes to clinic operation, Giuffre said.

The new scheme realigns the whole health-care system on the backs of its doctors, Giuffre said, adding that the game is being changed, and the rules of the game are not being disclosed to physicians.

"In an environment where we've had low morale, physicians being excluded in the planning of FCCs and an environment where physician intimidation has been confirmed by the Health Quality Council, it's just not a good situation at all," he said.

"It's the first time in the history of Alberta that it's ever been done by a government, where they've imposed an agreement on physicians.”

A Canadian Institute for Health Information report shows Alberta physician pay is 29% above the national average and the province's retention successes are the best in the nation. Physicians in Alberta earned an average $377,368 in 2010.

Horne said this pay scheme keeps that top status intact.

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