Nearly two years after the provincial government started negotiations with the Alberta Medical Association over doctor’s salaries – the province imposed a new pay increase, without an agreement.

“Our main objective was to try and get an agreement on the financial component,” Health Minister Fred Horne said. “Unfortunately, we’re unable to do that.”

The province announced higher salaries for more than 8,200 doctors, and the changes include:

  • A one-time lump-sum payment of 2.5 percent to each physician, based on their billings in the 2011/2012 year
  • Annual increases, tied to the Cost of Living Adjustment over the next three years

According to the Canadian Institute of Health Information said Alberta doctors are paid, on average, more than doctors in all other provinces, and 29 percent higher than the national average.

The announcement caught the Alberta Medical Association off-guard.

“[It’s] disheartening in terms of process, disheartening in terms of imposition,” Dr. Michael Giuffre with the AMA said. “This is the first time in the history of the province the government has chosen to impose on physicians.”

Aside from the changes, the Business Cost Program will be extended, to end in 2013/2014, the Retention Benefit Program will end March 31 – the combined $120 million that would have gone towards those programs is set to be re-invested into other physician supports related to family practice and primary health care.

“I think what we saw is now an imposition of a contract, that will negatively affect physicians, no matter if they’re primary care physicians out in the community, or whether they are a specialty, or sub-specialty,” Dr. Giuffre said.

Regardless of the differences on either side of the table, Minister Horne said he’s ready to continue to work with the AMA.

“Whatever the reaction is to that, we need to keep working together on all matters in health care,” Minister Horne said.

The total estimated value of the changes is $463 million, over four years.

With files from Veronica Jubinville