Alberta doctors voted 70% in favor of a new contract that includes modest salary increases for three years and promises to resolve outstanding disputes later.
About 45 per cent of physicians across the province have voted in the past two weeks on a complex proposal meant to help recruit and retain more family doctors, especially in rural Alberta.
As CBC News first reported, the deal will give doctors a lump sum payment this fiscal year to recognize doctors’ work over the past two years and increase their pay rates by 1% per year. for the next three years.
Meanwhile, a series of committees with doctors and government officials will negotiate outstanding disagreements, including a review of all doctors’ billing codes and a daily cap that prevents doctors from seeing more than 65 patients.
The agreement commits the government to table a bill as soon as possible to repeal a power that the United Conservative Party government has given itself to unilaterally terminate any framework agreement with doctors.
In 2020, that is exactly what the government has done by imposing a new agreement on the doctors of the province and by spoiling relations between the parties.
The parties had previously tried, unsuccessfully, to negotiate and sign a new agreement in March 2021.
The Alberta Medical Association (AMA), which represents the province’s 11,000 doctors, has sued the government for what it says is a violation of their labor rights.
The new agreement stipulates that the AMA will cancel his lawsuit once the government changes the law.
Meanwhile, the UCP will select a new leader on October 6, giving Alberta a new premier within a week.
The government says the deal includes $252 million in new spending over the next four years, representing $59 million in annual funding and $16 million in one-time funding.
Physician compensation costs the province about $5.6 billion a year.
The province also pledged a $40 million investment in primary care networks over the next two years.
Briefing materials provided to reporters say the deal will keep Alberta doctors “among the highest paid, on average, in Canada,” but does not provide a direct comparison with other provinces.
A point of contention for some physicians is that some specialists are paid more than others, while struggling with wildly varying overhead costs.
The agreement includes slightly larger pay increases for family doctors and mental health generalists, neurologists, obstetricians and gynecologists, pediatricians and psychiatrists, to help address some of these inequities.
The four-year agreement will run from April 1, 2022 to March 31, 2026 and will continue for one year if the government and WADA fail to resolve outstanding disputes.