Manitoba is probing financial questions in the Nor-Man Regional Health Authority where some local doctors were reportedly paid almost $7,000 for a 24-hour work shift.
As part of an initiative to keep doctors working in remote communities such as Thompson, The Pas, and Flin Flon, Manitoba pays rural physicians under a contract that includes financial incentives.
The province has, for some time, been trying to keep doctors working in remote communities, many in northern parts of Manitoba.
To do so, the province wrote up a contract for a group of doctors, providing funding in exchange for guaranteed emergency room service 365 days a year.
But according to Dr. Stanley Miller, Chief of Staff for the Flin Flon General Hospital, there were problems with the way the contract was managed.
CBC News obtained court documents filed in connection with a legal action by Dr. Krishan Sethi of Flin Flon who went to court to have his hospital privileges restored.
'It has a negative impact on patient care.' —Opposition Leader Hugh McFadyen
According to those documents, doctors at three hospitals in the Nor-Man region were earning just under $7,000 for a 24-hour weekend shift and more than $6,100 for a weekday shift — amounts Miller claimed were the highest compensation paid to physicians anywhere in Canada. The province allocated almost $2.7 million to the fund for the physicians in the group in the fiscal year 2009-2010, and just over $2.3 million the year before.
Court documents suggest the fund was originally administered by a small group of doctors who themselves were beneficiaries of it. Miller said in those documents that the fund should be administered by the health authority.
"A very few doctors — two in particular — were paid very large sums," Miller alleged, while others were paid less than the fees specified by Manitoba Health.
Miller suggested two of the three foreign trained doctors that were recruited threatened to leave, and have considered legal action.
'All that is going to be looked at.' —Manitoba Health Minister Theresa Oswald
Health minister Theresa Oswald said these issues form part of an overall review of management in the Nor-Man health authority, ordered last December. "Questions on remuneration, on fairness, on perceived people being in control and not being fair ... all that is going to be looked at," Oswald told CBC News.
Oswald said there should be full disclosure as to how the fund was handled.
Opposition leader Hugh McFadyen said the situation in the Nor-Man region is symptomatic of larger problems in Manitoba's healthcare system. "We've seen a huge build up of bureaucracy at the expense of front-line care," said McFadyen. "When you have that sort of chaos and mismanagement taking place within the bureaucracy it has a negative impact on patient care."
Sethi, one of the doctors who controlled the compensation fund, said legal documents filed by Miller are part of an effort to discredit his reputation and that handling of the disputed fund was in accordance with the contract signed with the province.
Sethi's lawyer Bill Haight said a chartered accountant he hired to review the fund found no irregularities.