Calgary

After weeks of backlash, Alberta doctors return to a calmer negotiating table

Negotiations between the province and doctors have resumed and after weeks of backlash form doctors, it appears the tone has changed. 

The government will no longer push through billing changes on Feb. 1 as originally planned

A spokesperson for Health Minister Tyler Shandro, pictured, said changes to the way doctors bill the province should be discussed in negotiations. (Manuel Carrillos/CBC)

Negotiations between the province and doctors have resumed and after weeks of backlash form doctors, it appears the tone has changed. 

The Alberta government has been trying to push through changes to the way doctors are paid, including increasing the minimum time requirements for visits and capping the number of patients a doctor can see in one day.

Some of those changes were meant to be pushed through on Feb. 1 and no new date has been set. 

The Alberta Medical Association has been calling for the issues to be discussed as part of negotiations, and AMA president Dr. Christine Molnar says the health minister is willing to do that.

"He has delayed the implementation of the consultation items so that they can be discussed in negotiations and I think we both want to get to a reasonable and fair negotiated settlement," she said. 

"I believe that."

600 letters sent to MLAs

She said doctors understand the government needs to find some short-term savings, but that healthcare also remains a priority for her members. 

A spokesperson for Health Minister Tyler Shandro says the negotiation process — which restarted yesterday after a break — is where these issues should be worked out.

Calgary political scientist Lori Williams says the province appears to be recognizing the optics are better if the two sides reach a solution together.

"One that isn't going to have the negativity that may be associated with imposing government financial cuts on a system that they promised to preserve during the election," she said. 

The AMA says more than 600 doctors sent letters to MLAs with their concerns about the proposed changes. 

With files from Jennifer Lee

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