N.L. doctors demand pay increases in new contract

N.L. doctors are demanding pay increases to ensure the province will attract and keep more physicians.

Doctors in Newfoundland and Labrador are demanding pay increases to ensure the province will attract and keep more physicians.

CBC has obtained a document outlining what Newfoundland and Labrador's doctors are looking for in their ongoing negotiations with government.

The Newfoundland and Labrador Medical Association says pay must be more competitive with physicians' wages in other parts of the country.

The group wants compensation that would put them in the top 25 per cent of what doctors are paid in Atlantic Canada.

The medical association outlines 11 "essential elements" it says must be part of the province's new deal with doctors. The list was given to the provincial government May 22.

In their last contract, doctors accepted a two-year wage freeze followed by increases of three per cent in each of the next two years.

Doctors say that can't happen again. Newfoundland and Labrador's doctors are among the lowest paid in Canada.

Retirements to aggravate shortage

They say there are dire shortages of family doctors and specialists across the province.

For years, the medical association has warned that the province's physician population is aging. It predicts a coming wave of doctor retirements will make shortages worse.

Doctors also want the province to fix the mess that was created last year when the government signed side deals to increase the pay of some specialists, such as pathologists and oncologists. The association's list says a new deal must correct these inequities.

Doctors are also calling on the province to compensate them for lost opportunities such as cancelled operating room lists.

In April, some doctors in St. John's saw up to 25 per cent of their scheduled surgeries cancelled because of shortages of nurses and anesthetists to staff operating rooms

The medical association want the province to establish competitive maternity/parental leave allowances.

"Although we have made concrete proposals to government on how to address our priority issues, we have not yet received any definitive response from them," reads the association's update.

Talks began in April. The current contract with physicians expires in September.

In October 2002, N.L. doctors went on strike for more than two weeks when negotiations for a new contract with the province government broke down.

The dispute went to binding arbitration and doctors were awarded a $54 million pay increase, millions more than the government's final offer.

The province's more than 1000 doctors will hold their annual general meeting in St. John's on June 27th.