The head of the Alberta Medical Association is continuing the war of words between the province's doctors and the government.
In an open letter released Tuesday, Dr. Michael Giuffre provides a detailed rebuttal of comments made recently by Premier Alison Redford concerning how much money physicians make.
According to Redford, Alberta doctors earn between 20 and 29 per cent more than their counterparts across the country.
Giuffre said Alberta physicians earn just 14 per cent more than the national average.
But he said the premier fails to take into account overhead costs that come with running a medical practice, including facilities, equipment and administration.
"These overhead costs are high in Alberta. For example, Albertans in general across all industries earn 20 per cent above the national average. This affects what physicians must pay for the staff in their offices," Giuffre’s letter stated.
The Alberta Medical Association and the province have been negotiating a new deal for doctors for almost two years. The deadline for those talks was recently extended until after Redford's government delivers its 2013-14 budget on March 7.
The AMA head went on to take issue with Redford’s suggestion last month that the only way the province could afford to increase doctors’ pay would be to re-introduce health care premiums.
"This contention is completely out of proportion and incorrect," he said. Re-introduction of health care premiums would give the government about $1 billion in revenue. But a one per cent increase in fees paid to physicians’ practices would cost the government $25-30 million, Giuffre said.
Giuffre also said in his letter that if doctors do not receive a cost of living increase, some medical practices will be forced to close, which could leave some patients without care.
Premier Redford’s contention that doctor pay accounts for 8.5 per cent of the provincial budget is also countered in Giuffre’s letter.
"This is not "doctor pay"; it represents funding which operates every physician’s practice across the entire province. Those practices employ thousands of Albertans and treat more than three million patients annually," he said.