An agreement between Alberta doctors and the provincial health system is coming down to the wire, with just three weeks left to sign a new deal.
In a letter to Alberta Medical Association (AMA) members, president Dr. Patrick White told his colleagues that finalizing a new three-year agreement would be a “Herculean” task.
The master services agreement is the overarching deal between the province and its doctors. It specifies what doctors can charge the province for procedures and medical appointments, while also outlining roles and responsibilities for everyone in the system.
The AMA’s previous eight-year agreement expired in April, and while the negotiations still continued, all parties agreed on a three-month extension.
That extension expires on June 30.
White wrote in the letter that the negotiations might not result in a new deal.
“There is a real possibility that, despite best efforts, a new draft master agreement will not be reached.”
The agreement is a negotiation between Alberta Health Services and Alberta Health and Wellness.
Health Minister Gene Zwozsdesky said he is confident something can be worked out, though stressed he is not directly at the bargaining table.
“I can tell you with great confidence that we have done everything from the government side and Alberta Health Services has done everything we can do on our side.”
The two sides have agreed on financial issues, like keeping fees in place during the first two years of the agreement, with a cost of living adjustment in the third and final year.
The AMA is pushing the government to give physicians a clear role in the health system and make sure they are heard and listened to on bigger issues around the way the health system is managed.
White wrote the AMA has to be seen as a player at the table when decisions are made.
“Without this quid pro quo, physicians and the AMA will be marginalized to an ill-defined advisory role, with all decisions and authority left in the hands of the minister or deputy minister.”
Zwozdesky said he believes the government is offering doctors their voice.
“They would like more meaningful involvement in the development and design of health services delivery and design and we have assured them that they will have that.”
Despite the short timeframe he is still confident the issues can be worked out, though declined to speculate on what might happen if the issue isn’t resolved.