The president of the Alberta Medical Association says the premier is pitting physicians against each other by making doctors' salaries into the scapegoat for climbing health-care costs.

In a letter posted to the AMA's website Friday, Dr. Michael Giuffre wrote that he is disappointed Premier Alison Redford singled-out doctors as burdensome expenses in recent public addresses on upcoming budget cutbacks. He says the premier's math is wrong on how much Alberta doctors are paid.


Alberta Medical Association president Dr. Michael Giuffre, left, stands with Health Minister Fred Horne. Giuffre says recent statements made by the premier about doctors' payments are misinformed and misleading. (CBC)

"For the past seven days, the premier has been making inaccurate statements that Alberta physicians are paid 20 to 29 per cent above the national average. She blames us for the province’s financial woes," Giuffre said in the letter.

In another letter published on the AMA's website Wednesday, Giuffre said Redford's figures on physician incomes were "often-confusing and frequently misleading."

The AMA, citing Canadian Institute for Health Information figures release last month, posted a document Friday that states average gross payments to doctors in Alberta are only 14 per cent above the national average.

The AMA said the CIHI figures are "far more accurate and reliable than the 29 per cent cited by government." It also reminded citizens that payments are not the same as earnings, and said that physicians in Alberta have the highest overhead costs in the country.

The AMA said it understands the government is concerned about having the highest per-person spending on health care, but said physician payments are not the problem. A chart the AMA created from CIHI data showed instead that hospital expenses in Alberta went far above the Canadian average.


The Alberta Medical Association posted this chart in a document online, with the accompanying text: 'We understand government is concerned about having the highest per-capita spending on health but as the chart, right, shows, physician payments are not the problem.' (AMA)

Giuffre said the 14 per cent higher average payments Alberta physicians receive are merely keeping pace with increased costs to lease space, hire staff and run a practice in Alberta.

In Friday's letter, Giuffre said the claims that doctors are paid 20 to 29 per cent above the national average is "misinformation" that was "delivered with intent."

He said Redford needs to explain her statements and correct her figures.

Giuffre also said Alberta appears to be following Ontario’s example for negotiation huge cuts with doctors, and he urged doctors not to fall into billing wars with each other.

He said the government's fundamental strategy is to create division within the profession.

Relations between the province and the AMA have been strained since November, when Health Minister Fred Horne attempted to impose a contract on doctors after he felt negotiations had reached a stalemate. 

Giuffre said statements made by the government about that unsuccessful settlement were also misleading.