The Government of Alberta and the AMA are exploring a return to formal negotiations toward a provincial agreement for Alberta physicians.
Before returning to negotiations, the parties have agreed to act on some high-priority health-care system issues that will support system stability. These actions, combined with those announced in summer 2021, demonstrate that both sides wish to rebuild the relationship and are willing and able to work together. Actions include:
COVID response – The government and physicians have collaborated to address the pandemic and Omicron surge, such as determining the best ways to manage rapid testing in the community, the guidance to give patients and updated recommendations on PPE requirements.
Physician compensation – The government has agreed to delay the Dec. 31, 2021 implementation of Alberta Health Services stipends, Z-code fee reductions and AHS overhead policy, allowing time for further discussion on these important topics within the context of a comprehensive strategic compensation framework that delivers value for dollars spent and fairness for physicians.
Virtual care – On Jan. 1, the government implemented two high-priority changes to recognize the value of physician time in patient care, as recommended by an Alberta Health/AMA/AHS/College of Physicians & Surgeons of Alberta virtual care working group and the Physician Compensation Advisory Committee. Improving access to virtual care is increasingly important to patients who need to access care but wish to limit their personal interactions during the pandemic. Balancing the payments for virtual and in-person options allows physicians to choose the best mode of care delivery without having to worry about compensation.
The next phase involves working with labour and management facilitator Rick Wilson to prepare both sides to begin interest-based negotiations as soon as possible. Interest-based negotiations means that the parties share the interests behind issues of disagreement and look for win-win solutions that meet the needs of all. For example, an interest-based approach may address common interests such as quality, sustainability in the health-care system and stability of physician practices.