AMA responds to Redford's comments on doctors' pay

Alberta Medical Association president Dr. Michael Giuffre says the premier's comments about the need to rein in physician compensation are 'alarming.'
Alberta Medical Association President Dr. Michael Giuffre and Health Minister Fred Horne spoke to the media in November about steps they were taking to return to the negotiating table. (CBC)

The president of the Alberta Medical Association says that it is "alarming" that Premier Alison Redford has singled out physician pay both in her recent televised address and in media interviews about upcoming cuts to the budget.

In a letter posted Wednesday on the AMA website, Dr. Michael Giuffre accused Redford of stating "often-confusing and frequently misleading" numbers about physician incomes.

He said that her comments are "not particularly helpful" as negotiations resume between doctors and the province.

"She may want to reflect on points I raised in my January 21 President’s Letter regarding good faith bargaining and options open to the AMA should government fail to negotiate that way," Giuffre said.

In that letter, Giuffre said that the AMA has retained lawyers "to assist us in exploring our options and implementing such actions should they become necessary." He also outlined a number of possible avenues for a legal challenge.

Relations between the province and the AMA have been strained since Nov. 16th when Health Minister Fred Horne imposed a contract after he felt that talks had reached a stalemate.

The settlement was later withdrawn and Horne denied that he was imposing anything. Talks have resumed with an aim of reaching a deal by the time the provincial budget is unveiled on March 7th.

Giuffre called Redford’s new call for restraint a reversal from last fall, when the province spent $130,000 on radio and print ads to promote the Nov. 16th settlement.

"They spent hundreds of thousands of dollars in taxpayer money on an advertising campaign that essentially defended and extolled the incomes of Alberta doctors as part of an affordable health care system," Giuffre said.

Redford has been under attack for appearing to link the outcome of physician contract talks to the return of health care premiums during a telephone town hall earlier this week.

On Wednesay, her communications staff released audio where she said that her government has no intention of implementing health premiums or new taxes in this year’s budget.