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Commentary: Health agreement would be welcome

It appears the premier may be open to a resolution

While ending the COVID-19 pandemic would probably be on the top of most people’s 2021 wish list, the ending of the long-running dispute between the UCP government and Alberta’s physicians would also be welcome in large urban centres and small rural communities alike.

The dispute revolves around a number of outstanding issues, including physician compensation, and has led some physicians to either leave the province outright or say that they plan to do so. 

Some of those unhappy physicians are currently practising in towns located geographically within Mountain View and Red Deer counties.

To date, Premier Jason Kenney has stood firm on his government’s decision to tear up its agreement with the Alberta Medical Association (AMA) and put a new framework in place.

Yet judging by some of his recent pronouncements on the dispute, the premier appears to be open to a resolution. 

“Yes, I do regret how that disagreement evolved,” Kenney said in a recent published interview. “As I always say, we profoundly appreciate having world-class physicians here at the heart of our health-care system. 

“We think they should be not just fairly, but generously compensated. I think we showed some flexibility in response to concerns that they raised.”

For its part, the AMA says it would like to see the dispute ended.

“I believe that sound health-care policy can and should be fiscally responsible, but the principles should be based on the fundamentals of high-quality health-care delivery,” said AMA president Dr. Paul Boucher.

“We want to see a fair process for physicians when it comes to compensation, including a way to resolve disputes. Physicians deserve fair compensation for their services. 

“We are calling on Alberta Health and Alberta Health Services to partner with us and to engage with doctors to develop a fair solution that prevents unnecessary impact to patient care.”

Only time will tell if Alberta’s government and the Alberta’s physicians will come to a settlement in 2021 – but if they do, it would be welcome news provincewide.

Dan Singleton is an editor with The Albertan.