Contract talks have broken down between doctors and the Minister of Health – after the two sides met over the weekend.

Both parties met with the help of a facilitator, weeks after the province imposed a pay settlement on physicians in November.

However, the President of the Alberta Medical Association fears doctors are in for the long haul after they failed to come up with an agreement.

“The doctors feel this is totally inappropriate, untrustworthy behaviour,” AMA President Dr. Michael Giuffre said. “[We] expected better from a minister.”

In mid-November, the province announced an imposed pay settlement when contract talks with the AMA reached an apparent impasse, the settlement included a one-time lump sum payment of 2.5 percent for each physician, and annual increases tied to the Cost of Living adjustment over the next three years.

The announcement was made about two years after the province and the AMA started negotiations.

AMA officials took out an ad in all major newspapers, which said the province and doctors had reached and signed an agreement in principle for a new contract before the election.

Officials said the government pulled the agreement off the table shortly after the election, and implemented a different settlement.

The government disagrees, the premier said in the legislature the AMA took action to end the agreement, the Health Minister agrees.

“The Alberta Medical Association did break that agreement in principle, so that was of concern,” Health Minister Fred Horne said. “What matters now is how we go forward, and it’s unfortunate that the AMA doesn’t want to work with government.”

Minister Horne said the province is facing financial restraints, and said the AMA needs to acknowledge the province has a limit to how high it can go.

“Our physicians are well paid, we make no apologies for that,” Horne said. “They are paid about $80,000 more than the national average, and we want to continue to do that.”

However, the President of the AMA said money is not at the centre of the issue.

“We have a minister that would make the public believe it’s all about money,” Dr. Giuffre said. “It’s not all about money, it’s about our right to negotiate in an appropriate manner.”

The AMA has set a deadline of December 31 for an agreement to be reached; the association will decide their plan for the New Year in a closed-door meeting on December 15.

However, in the meantime, the AMA has planned emergency meetings throughout the province Tuesday night to discuss their next step.

With files from Dez Melenka