EDMONTON -- The Health Minister has fired the latest verbal shot in an ongoing dispute with Alberta doctors, suggesting the concerns of medical professionals are about money, not patient care.

"It's not about the money, it's about respect," said Health Minister Tyler Shandro on a funding promise for palliative care.

"Any time someone says it's not about the money, it's about the money," he said 28 minutes later. That was in response to the ongoing feud between the ministry and Alberta doctors, who have argued their concerns are based on patient care, not money.

"Diminishing the honest concerns of doctors for their patients does not help," said Christine Molnar, Alberta Medical Association president.

Earlier this year, the province froze physician funding and implemented changes including caps on the amount of patients a physician can see per day, and cuts to overhead costs for doctors who run their own clinics.

"The Minister seems to think that it's his way or the highway," said Dr. Molnar. "We believe that we will not be able to preserve access or quality for patients on his highway."

It's led to numerous angry letters from doctors, some are closing practices or threatening to leave Alberta. The most recent letter was printed this week in a Cochran newspaper.

"These doctors are speaking out because it's part of our role to be advocates for patients," said Molnar.

The Health Minister insists that Alberta doctors are among the highest paid in the country, still he says he's willing to negotiate.

"I think there's absolutely a way for us to continue to have a conversation with the AMA and physicians," said Shandro.

But he's unwilling to budge on the frozen 5.4 billion dollar budget for doctor paycheques. The AMA says it accepts that, but wants more say in how to meet that number and arbitration to get negotiations restarted.

With files from CTV News Edmonton's Bill Fortier.