Negotiations may soon resume over a new compensation package for the province's doctors, according to Health Minister Fred Horne and Alberta Medical Association president Dr. Michael Giuffre.
"The good news is I think we both agree that we want to go back to the negotiating table," Horne said after meeting with Giuffre Thursday afternoon. "We're both committed to doing that work."
However, both sides still need to have more discussions before returning to the negotiating table, Horne added. A third-party agreed upon by both sides may be brought in to help.
Giuffre said that the doctors are keen to resume negotiations.
"We both want an agreement. We're going to work very hard towards getting back to the negotiating table, and if that occurs, that all the issues that are important to physicians will be on the table in the fiscal envelope that the minister has described," he said.
Thursday's meeting between Horne and Giuffre was the first since the minister shocked the province's doctors on Nov. 16th when he unilaterally imposed a five-year $463 million compensation package, after deciding both sides had reached an impasse after 20 months of negotiations.
Horne now says that the settlement was never imposed.
"I don't take the view that anything was imposed," he said. "I was clear last week that I believe that we were at an impasse."
'Province full of very angry doctors'
Earlier this week, Giuffre took issue with the province's $130,000 ad campaign that described pay for Alberta doctors as the best in Canada.
He says that will take time for the government to rebuild trust.
"We have a province full of very angry doctors," he said.
"I think when the angry doctors were exposed to the media and to the radio blitz that was really mud-slinging against doctors, I think that contributed to the fire in the belly of most of the doctors and I think it has really fueled us to pushing hard for getting back to the table and getting an agreement."
Although negotiations may resume soon, Horne said that there are limits on what can be spent on physician compensation.