Alberta's doctors have voted 93.5 per cent in favour of a seven-year deal with the province.
Only 38 per cent of physicians of the roughly 8,000 physicians in the province voted, but Alberta Medical Association president Michael Giuffre says that turnout is consistent with other agreement votes since 2003.
"I want to thank and congratulate the membership of the AMA on this momentous occasion," he said in a letter to AMA's members.
Giuffre says the agreement sets ambitious goals for improving the system as physicians work in a leadership role with government and Alberta Health Services.
The deal is retroactive for three years, during which doctors will not receive a pay increase. There will be a 2.5 per cent increase for the next two years, followed by a cost of living arrangement for the final two years of the deal.
There will also be a lump-sum payment totalling $68 million paid to physicians in a manner established by the AMA to address various financial challenges faced by physician practices.
In April, when details of the agreement were released, Giuffre said best efforts will be made to distribute the funds within 90 days of the agreement being approved.
Other details of the agreement include:
- Creation of a physician compensation committee to oversee compensation practices, including reviewing and adjusting relative payment rates, or fees.
- Commitment to an ongoing agreement that reflects the permanency of the relationship between Alberta Health and the AMA.
- Arbitration rights on annual percentage increase for fees and specific benefits.
- Recognition of the AMA as the ongoing representative of physicians for compensation negotiations.
- Commitment for Alberta Health and the AMA to continue to work together on how primary care evolves in the future.
- Commitment by Alberta Health to consult with the AMA on a new electronic medical records strategy for physicians.
- Commitment to consult together on other matters outside the agreement, including on opportunities to find efficiencies and savings within the health system.
"We are very pleased that physicians voted in favour of this comprehensive agreement," said Fred Horne, Alberta's Minister of Health.
"It marks the start of a new long-term relationship with the AMA that will ensure patient-centred care and a strong health system for years to come."
The agreement comes after two years of acrimonious negotiations.