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Alberta doctors, government sign new funding agreement

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Editor's note: CTV News Edmonton previously reported family doctors would see an average eight-per cent increase over current rates over the next three fiscal years, according to the province. This includes all investments and incentives outlined in the contract. More details below.

After several years of negotiations, Alberta doctors and the province have reached an agreement.

On Wednesday, about 45 per cent of doctors with the Alberta Medical Association participated in a vote on the new contract, with 70 per cent voting in favour.

Health Minister Jason Copping said on Thursday he was pleased with the new agreement and it will help stabilize the health-care system.

Physicians will see an average four-per cent pay rate increase from current rates over the three-year contract term.

Some specialties will receive higher increases according to the contract.

Family doctors are expected to see an average compounded increase of 5.25 per cent over the first three fiscal years.

Including other investments and incentives, that rate is expected to be closer to eight per cent.

Alberta Health confirmed this in a statement to CTV News.

"Physicians in family medicine and generalists in mental health will receive an effective total increase over the term equating to 8.18% if the value of all investments are factored in," a spokesperson for the department explained.

In a tweet, the Edmonton Zone Medical Staff Association pointed out, "fee-for-service is not a direct salary."

"Every practice is unique, so an overall rate increase means different direct pay, for each physician," EZMSA added. "The agreement does also include other programs and incentives which were in the government announcement."

'GOOD FOR PHYSICIANS': AMA PRESIDENT

"We have achieved an agreement that is good for physicians, it's good for patients, and it's good for the health-care system that supports them because that support is not only a good thing, but it's a necessary thing," Dr. Vesta Michelle Warren, president of the AMA, said on Thursday, speaking alongside Copping at a news conference in Red Deer.

"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 union represents Alberta's 11,000 doctors.

The agreement covers four fiscal years: April 1, 2022, to March 31, 2026.

In addition to the pay increase from current rates, $252 million will be invested over four years in several targeted areas:

  • $15 million annually for physician recruitment and retention;
  • $12 million annually for the Rural Remote Northern Program;
  • $12 million annually for physician support programs;
  • a $2 million one-time investment for the Rural Education Supplement and Integrated Doctor Experience (RESIDE) Program;
  • $20 million annually for the Business Costs Program; and
  • a $14 million one-time investment for change management and information technology.

The province has also agreed to repeal Bill 21 — legislation which allows it to unilaterally rip up its contract with doctors — and in return, the AMA will drop a lawsuit against the Alberta government.

Alberta Health is also increasing funding for primary care networks by $20 million in both this fiscal year and next. 

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