Alberta doctors have ratified a new four-year agreement with the provincial government.
On Thursday morning, the province said the deal with the Alberta Medical Association focuses mainly on physician recruitment and retention and rebuilding relationships with Alberta doctors.
“It will stabilize the health system, target areas of concern and support Albertans’ health-care needs,” Health Minister Jason Copping said.
“This agreement is good for physicians, patients and the health-care system,” said AMA president Dr. Vesta Michelle Warren. “It will allow physicians to contribute to decision-making and provide expertise on what matters for patients.
“It provides increases in line with other settlements, valuable programs, business cost support, fair processes for working together on compensation or other matters and ways to resolve disputes. The agreement will help stabilize physician practices that are struggling with rising costs. Stability is critical to retain and attract physicians.”
Alberta physicians will receive a guaranteed four per cent wage increase over the four-year term of the agreement.
The province has committed $252 million in new spending over the length of the four-year term for communities and specialties facing recruitment and retention issues. The province recognized it is facing challenges ensuring access to family physicians in remote and rural areas.
A $40-million lump sum will also be spent on increasing Primary Care Networks over the first two years.
The agreement also includes increased investments to doctor’s fees, with specialties facing greater financial pressures seeing higher rate increases over the first three years of the term. Those specialties include family medicine, neurology, obstetrics and gynecology, pediatrics and psychiatry.
Higher-earning specialties such as ophthalmology and radiology will still see rate increases, but at a lower rate.
The government has also committed to reviewing caps to daily physician visits, virtual care code enhancements and extending physician support programs to medical examiners.
Alberta doctors voted against a previous tentative deal earlier this year and have been without a deal with the province for more than two years, since then-health minister Tyler Shandro nullified the agreement.
This new agreement includes a commitment from Alberta Health to repeal section 40.2 of the Alberta Health Care Insurance Act, which is what enabled the government to terminate the last agreement with the AMA.
In return, the AMA has agreed to drop the lawsuit it filed against the government without seeking costs.
“There is hard work ahead, but we look forward to rebuilding the relationship with government and seeking solutions through collaboration,” Warren said.
Alberta Health and the AMA said Thursday that 70.2 per cent of responding physicians voted yes to the new agreement, which was tentatively reached in August. The AMA said voter turnout was 45.8 per cent.
The term of the agreement is from April 1, 2022 to March 31, 2026.
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