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Alberta doctors take out newspaper ads in hopes of reaching agreement with UCP

Alberta doctors take out ads in hopes of reaching agreement with UCP government
WATCH: The Alberta Medical Association has taken out full-page newspaper ads to send a message to Health Minister Tyler Shandro, in the hopes of reaching a new agreement with UCP. Tom Vernon has more.

The Alberta Medical Association is sending a message to the province’s health minister through full-page newspaper ads in the hopes of reaching a new agreement with the UCP.

The AMA claims that since negotiations began, Tyler Shandro has torn up the agreement before negotiations had finished, removed doctors’ rights to binding arbitration and incorrectly informed Albertans that the AMA never tabled any proposals or offered significant savings.

The ads — published in Postmedia publications Wednesday — are the latest step in an ongoing dispute between Alberta doctors and the government.

The Alberta Medical Association has taken out an ad in newspapers across the province in an effort to strike a deal with the provincial government.
The Alberta Medical Association has taken out an ad in newspapers across the province in an effort to strike a deal with the provincial government. Staff/Global News

The AMA said it agrees to:

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  • hold physician budget at its current level for the next three years
  • work with government as a full partner to manage budgets and explore new payment models
  • contribute its expertise to stabilize and improve Alberta’s health-care system
  • work with government to advance its health-care platform to decrease wait times, improve seniors care, support mental health and advance the patient’s medical home

The AMA wants the government to:

  • pay for new doctors over existing number of physicians
  • restore AMA’s right to binding arbitration
  • continue funding programs and grants

Read more: Government files statement of defence in response to Alberta Medical Association lawsuit

Meanwhile, Shandro said the ad shows the AMA isn’t serious.

“This is another tactic.”

While appearing on Danielle Smith on Global News Radio 770 CHQR Wednesday morning, Shandro said the newspaper ad was not the way to negotiate.

“The most important thing is, the $5.4 billion that we pay our doctors is 10 per cent of the government’s budget and I’m not negotiating the $5.4 billion through a newspaper ad.

“If they want to negotiate with us and submit an offer, they know what that looks like. And it doesn’t look like a newspaper ad.”

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He also refuted the AMA’s claim that the organization has tabled three proposals, calling it “really misleading and incorrect.”

According to Shandro, the AMA has provided PowerPoint presentations but nothing that was signed.

“They know what an offer looks like and they’ve never once provided us a counteroffer that was signed.”

Read more: Alberta Medical Association files lawsuit against provincial government

The AMA filed a lawsuit against the government’s ministry of health in April, citing the termination of its master agreement.

“Upon signing a mutually agreeable contract, the AMA will, in good faith, withdraw our lawsuit against the [government of Alberta], filed in response to the termination of our contract and withdrawal of arbitration rights,” the AMA said in a news release.
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The organization said it has said yes to the proposal; now it’s the government’s turn.

“We still believe there is a way forward,” the AMA said.

“Let’s not waste any more time. The health-care system desperately needs the stability that only working together can bring. This is what patients deserve.”

Read more: 42% of Alberta physicians considering leaving the province for work: AMA survey

NDP health critic David Shepherd said in a media release that doctors were left with no choice but to escalate their concerns.

“For months, doctors have attempted to negotiate in good faith and they have faced nothing but hostility from Jason Kenney and the UCP,” Shepherd said. “Now, we face a situation where 42 per cent of doctors are considering leaving the province altogether.”

On Wednesday afternoon, Shandro also issued the following statement:

“There are two claims in the AMA’s paid advertisement that need to be addressed.

The AMA claims that they submitted three offers that would hold the budget to current levels. This is simply untrue. The AMA knows full well that an offer on a $5.4-billion budget of taxpayer money requires language that commits both parties to a shared goal, keeping spending within the budget target. We have unfortunately seen hollow promises from the AMA before. In 2016, the former government signed a deal with the AMA that they claimed would save $500 million over two years. In reality, annual spending on physicians went up by more than $1 billion by 2018 — a 23 per cent increase.

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Second, the AMA suggests that funding for programs and grants such as maternity and paternity benefits and physician health programming is in jeopardy. I want to be absolutely clear: funding for those benefits will not only be maintained but increased. We will do so by streamlining the administration of these dollars, making sure that every dollar available reaches Alberta’s physicians.
Physician spending represents 10 per cent of the total provincial budget and is forecasted to grow by billions if we do nothing. This is at the same time that COVID-19 and the Russian-Saudi oil price war are severely affecting government revenues, as well as most Albertans’ take-home pay. It is critical that we act now.

Our plan simply ensures spending is held to current levels – the highest in Alberta’s history and the highest per capita in Canada. It also ensures that Alberta’s doctors rightfully remain the highest paid in the country.”