Doctors won’t take job action

A lot of doctors are disgruntled over the province’s imposed fee settlement, but for now local job action is not in the cards, says the chairman of Red Deer Primary Care Network.

A lot of doctors are disgruntled over the province’s imposed fee settlement, but for now local job action is not in the cards, says the chairman of Red Deer Primary Care Network.

“There is no job action planned in Red Deer at the moment. Things will go on as usual. The PCN is going to go on as usual,” said Dr. Peter Bouch, who represents the network of about 80 family doctors who lead multi-professional health teams in Red Deer.

On Nov. 16, the Alberta Health imposed a $463-million, five-year deal on doctors.

The Alberta Medical Association, which represents more than 8,000 physicians, estimates that the deal is a $210-million pay cut for doctors once program and fee changes are factored in.

Alberta Health Minister Fred Horne has since said he is willing to consider a request from doctors to go back to the bargaining table, but no more money is available.

Bouch said different ideas for job action have been thrown around and there could be ways that would not affect patient care.

“AMA and all physicians want to put the patient first.”

Last week, the AMA asked the province to reopen negotiations because of an outcry by doctors and the public, he said.

“This is a democratic country. You can’t really just impose something.

“I understand the government only has so much money but we all need to work together rather than trying to impose something. If we could work together, everyone in the end would be happier and more productive.”

The two sides have been bargaining since the last pay deal for doctors expired in March 2011.

They have twice reached agreements in principle, only to see the deals fall apart.

Bouch said he would like to see a 10-year planning approach within Alberta’s health care system to provide direction in negotiations.

In the meantime, it will be difficult to recruit family doctors who are needed in Alberta because of the instability the contract dispute has created, he said.

— with files from The Canadian Press

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