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Mediator brought in to break logjam in contract talks between doctors and Alberta government

The mediator will begin to work with both sides as meetings resume on Jan. 31.
The mediator will begin to work with both sides as meetings resume on Jan. 31. Hugh Macknight / STRPA-The Canadian Press File

The Alberta government and physicians are bringing in a mediator to help break a logjam in talks on a new master agreement.

Health Minister Tyler Shandro says while there has been progress, the two sides have been unable to reach a deal to replace the current contract, which expires at the end of March.

READ MORE: Doctors worried about Alberta government’s proposed cuts, changes to compensation

Dr. Christine Molnar, head of the Alberta Medical Association, says both sides have agreed on the mediator and hope this will break the impasse.

WATCH (Dec. 3, 2019): A St. Albert doctor, NDP MLA David Shepherd and Health Minister Tyler Shandro respond to changes the UCP is proposing.

Doctor, NDP and health minister on proposed changes to Alberta physician compensation
Doctor, NDP and health minister on proposed changes to Alberta physician compensation

The master agreement encompasses the broad relationship between doctors and the government, including working conditions and compensation.

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This complex negotiation process became even more complicated late last year when Alberta Health advised doctors that it planned to bring in new policies.

The major change would affect how long a doctor must see a patient before tacking on an extra fee, known as a complex modifier.

READ MORE: Doctors call new pay plan being proposed in Alberta legislature cynical, heavy-handed

Shandro believes the government has the power to make the changes, but the association contends many of the modifications must be negotiated.

The complex modifier was originally set to kick in Saturday, but Shandro has said the deadline has been extended while talks continue.

The province also wants to end double billing for overhead, scrap duplicate billing for diagnostic imaging and cap how many patients a doctor can see and bill for in a day.

READ MORE: Alberta panel says savings to be found in health, education changes

Alberta is paying $5.3 billion this year for physicians.

Premier Jason Kenney has said there is room to find savings in government to reduce the deficit while making health care more efficient.

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