The Alberta Medical Association and the province have reached a tentative agreement for physicians.
The health minister and president of the AMA made the announcement Friday afternoon.
“We have negotiated what we believe is a reasonable approach to the situation we are in, and the best agreement for our members given our fiscal environment,” Dr. Paul Boucher, president of the AMA, said in a letter to members Friday afternoon.
The letter went on to say that the tentative agreement addresses the government’s financial mandate, but also delivers fairness for physicians and value for patients.
Health Minister Tyler Shandro said the discussions with the AMA were “challenging, but productive” and he believes the two sides came to “the best possible agreement.”
“I am confident that what we’re presenting doctors with is an agreement that provides certainty, provides stability and it does so in the best interest of patients, the best interest of doctors and the best interest of all Albertans,” Shandro said.
The health minister said the agreement — details of which were not released — was based on three pillars:
- Fiscal sustainability for the province
- Patient care
- Fair and equitable solutions for physicians
“Those three pillars have been at the top of my agenda through all discussions,” Shandro said. “I am pleased that we can move forward and work together, building on what we’ve learned from each other during this process to build a renewed relationship based on mutual understanding and trust.
“I believe this tentative agreement outlines a framework which helps our government maintain a focus on those three pillars I talked about.”
Boucher said the AMA’s board of directors met Thursday night and believes that what has been negotiated has merit, and warrants “initiation of our usual ratification process.”
News of the tentative agreement comes nearly a year after the province ended its long-standing master agreement with physicians. New regulations, including new fee rules on extended patient visits, were implemented in the spring.
The move caused some family doctors to announce they would reduce their services or leave the province because the changes financially strained their practices.
The government eventually rolled back some fee and scheduling changes.
In April 2020, the AMA filed a lawsuit against the provincial government’s ministry of health, citing the termination of its agreement as one of the reasons for filing the claim.
“The lawsuit is tied up with all this,” Boucher said.
“The intention would be that if the agreement addresses the issues within our lawsuit, then we would let that go. That’s part of the whole process but the details that’s within the agreement, I think out of respect for the process, needs to go to our membership before we are able to share that.”
Boucher said the tentative agreement is an opportunity to restart a relationship with the government.
“This agreement brings doctors and government back together to work through the challenges of delivering the quality care that the patients of Alberta deserve.”
The AMA is in the process of gathering all of the documents to share with its members.
A representative forum will be organized in the coming week to review the tentative agreement package and provide advice to the board, Boucher said. The representative forum is made up of 148 members that represent each medical specialty and geographic region in the province, Boucher explained.
“They will review the agreement in the coming week and then advise the board whether they support proceeding to a membership vote.”
From there, the board will determine if a ratification vote by the membership will proceed. The process will take about three weeks, Boucher said.
“Although it was negotiated on the behalf of Alberta’s physicians, its merit will be judged by those physicians themselves before it can be implemented.”