Last year doctors billed the government on average $201,394, with a range of $160,000 for general practitioners to $384,000 for heart surgeons. Twenty-nine doctors billed more than $1 million.
The president of the Alberta Medical Association is quoted as saying, "I don't think we gave up any of our key principles. Our main goal was quality health care and the AMA having a strong voice in the planning. We were also saying doctors were working very hard and their fee schedule should not be compromised with this new agreement."
The deal with the doctors does not sit well with union leaders representing other workers who have endured pay cuts and job losses. The president of the Health Sciences Association of Alberta, which represents laboratory technologists and other allied health professionals, is quoted as saying, " There needs to be an equal distribution of the pain."
Coincidence or not, the AMA action comes at a time when the doctors' negotiations with the government over fees have been stalled for 10 months due to the province's plan to cut another $100 million from the system, this time from physician's income. ($600 million have already been cut from Alberta's health care system since 1993-4.)
In reply to the AMA blitz, Premier Klein said that it was a mistake not to include doctors when changes to health care began and agreed to give doctors more input on regional health authorities. Klein also said that the $100 million cut to doctors' salaries won't necessarily come from annual fee-for-service payments.