Health Minister Ted Flemming has taken his dispute with the New Brunswick Medical Society over medicare cuts directly to the province's doctors and the public in a full-page newspaper advertisement.
In the open letter to doctors published on Thursday, Flemming says he can't ask other health professionals to accept cuts without expecting the same of doctors.
"Many physicians have indicated to me they understand the financial pressures and would prefer a collaborative solution," he states.
Flemming urges doctors to help him find ways to save $20 million on medicare and avoid cuts.
"There are many ways we can achieve these savings without a medicare cap. With the New Brunswick Medical Society's support and the buy-in of physicians we can make significant change," he said.
"There are also non-monetary discussions that I am willing to talk about in an effort to reach our financial objectives. Unfortunately, we have not been able to have these conversations."
Flemming says his door remains open to "physician guidance and ideas."
Emergency meeting Friday
The letter comes one day before the New Brunswick Medical Society is expected to hold an emergency general meeting to discuss the government's decision to cut funding for doctors who bill medicare for each service by $18.8 million to $425 million and to cap that amount for two years.
Last month, the organization, which represents the province's doctors, announced plans to launch a legal challenge of the cuts.
The letter also comes on the heels of a letter from the Canadian Medical Association and provincial and territorial medical societies, calling on the New Brunswick government to respect its negotiated, signed agreement with doctors and not cut medicare.
The medical organizations told premier David Alward a medicare billing cap will inevitably hurt patient care and they called for collaborative discussions between the government and doctors to find other ways to save money.
'OK, maybe I don't have the world's greatest bedside manner from time to time. It's because I'm so passionate about saving the system.'—Health Minister Ted Flemming
Flemming acknowledged on Thursday he has been combative with the New Brunswick Medical Society, but he says he wants to work with them.
"OK, maybe I don't have the world's greatest bedside manner from time to time. It's because I'm so passionate about saving the system," he said.
"I'm so frustrated when I can't do the kinds of things I want to do. I admit that. But listen, we've got to put the people first. We've got to put the patients first. We've got to put New Brunswick first."
Flemming softened his tone on Thursday and asked the doctors to return to negotiations.
"A tremendous resource for savings are the doctors. They're the front line people. And I'm asking the medical society — come and help us find a little bit of savings."
The medical society says it already offered to negotiate the $20 million in savings Flemming says he needs. But it says Flemming walked out of the meeting.
Liberal Leader Brian Gallant criticized Flemming's letter during Question Period on Thursday, arguing the health minister should contact the medical society directly, not through an ad.