Edmonton

Alberta Medical Association concerned about privacy if physician salaries made public

The NDP government is at loggerheads with another group of Albertans, this time not farmers but physicians concerned about having their pay made public on the sunshine list.

Bill 5 would add physicians to 'sunshine list' of people whose salaries would be made public

Dr. Carl Nohr sent a letter to members on Wednesday detailing his objections to Bill 5, The Public Sector Compensation Transparency Act. (Alberta Medical Association)

The NDP government is at loggerheads with another group of Albertans, this time not farmers but physicians concerned about having their pay made public on the sunshine list.

Alberta Medical Association president Dr. Carl Nohr sent a letter to members on Wednesday detailing his objections to Bill 5, The Public Sector Compensation Transparency Act, which would add doctors to the list of people whose compensation would be made public.

Nohr said the legislation would have to balance the public's right to know how much physicians are paid with doctors' rights to privacy.

"Many members oppose any additional form of publication of total payment revenue," Nohr said in his letter. "Members have indicated very strong privacy concerns regarding the amounts paid to a named physician's practice. Potential unintended consequences include criminal targeting of physicians' homes and families … ."

The province already makes public a schedule of fees paid for each medical service, Nohr noted,  and each year publishes a range of payments for every specialty.

Asked about Nohr's comments, Health Minister Sarah Hoffman said she understands why doctors might have reservations about their pay being posted on a government website.

"I also understand why the public deserves to know what investment we're making in public services," she said. "Including the paying of teachers, the paying of doctors."

She said the intention of Bill 5 is to expand transparency to include people who work for provincial boards and agencies and professionals paid by the province.

Under the legislation, government employees earning more than $104,000 a year would be included on the list. For doctors and others affected by the legislation who are not directly employed by the government, the threshold is $125,000.

"We really value the contributions of physicians," Hoffman said. "And I think that Albertans have good reason to want to know what the compensation level is."

Justice Minister Kathleen Ganley said the government understands that fee- for-service payments don't reflect actual take-home pay of doctors, because out of those fees they have to pay overhead to run their offices.

"We understand that physician compensation is complex," Ganley said. "And we understand that unique rules need to apply to the health sector group."

Ganley said rules will be developed with input from Alberta Health Services and from the AMA.

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