'Soul searching' led to Alberta docs' deal: Redford

Alberta Premier Alison Redford (L) watches as the Minister of Health Fred Horne (M) talkes abnout singing a seven-year deal with Dr. Michael Giuffre (R) (President of the Alberta Medical Association) and Alberta doctors on April 15,2013 at the Alexandra Community Health Centre in downtown Calgary, AB



EDMONTON -- It was "real soul-searching" that led to Monday's agreement between Alberta doctors and the provincial government, Premier Alison Redford said.

Addressing reporters at the legislature Monday evening, Redford said she was quite pleased with the deal struck between Health Minister Fred Horne and the Alberta Medical Association.

"I think that what we've come to see in the last two and a half weeks is real soul-searching on the part of the profession and government about what is meaningful work for physicians and for government to make sure that we're providing good, solid access and quality care," said Redford.

The seven-year agreement includes a three-year wage freeze retroactive to the past two years, hikes totalling 5% and two years of lump-sum payments amounting to $68 million. The 5% pay hike spread over two years will amount to about $150 million, while the three-year pay freeze will save the province $455 million.

"For us to be able to see zero increases for three years plus some increases over time is fundamentally important," Redford said, adding the cost savings "takes us a long way."

Primary Care Networks have been grappling with conventional funding models, Redford said, which makes it difficult for them to provide the multidisciplinary services expected from the Family Care Clinics.

Redford said Albertans will start to see health-care services being delivered differently within the "next couple of weeks." Doctors and patients will see a big difference while it may take some time before things change administratively, Redford said.

"But that's the important part in the long term," she said. "To find a way that's more efficient in terms of how we're actually able to pay for the administration services that are provided through primary care networks and family care clinics."

Redford reiterated her party's promise to build 140 new family care clinics across Alberta before the next provincial election in 2016.

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