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Doctors, B.C. reach accord

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Doctors, B.C. reach accord

Jun 09 2012

After a year of tough negotiations, the B.C. government and the association representing more than 10,000 doctors have reached a tentative deal on a four-year master agreement.

The deal puts $90 million in new money into health care over two years, plus $10 million expected to be saved through the negotiation of lower lab fees.

The vast majority of that goes toward medical services for patients and a "modest amount" toward increased fees for doctors, said B.C. Health Minister Mike de Jong.

"I'd characterize this as a good agreement for patients, an agreement that's fair to doctors, and is affordable to taxpayers," de Jong said Friday.

The deal is equivalent to a 1.5 per cent funding increase over each of two years. Doctors' fees will climb by 0.5 per cent per year in the first two years of the agreement.

While the doctors' master agreement is a four-year deal, the financial agreement has been negotiated only for the first two years, allowing the government and doctors to return to the table to negotiate, without parameters, years three and four - when the province's economic outlook might be improved.

The B.C. Medical Association is recommending its membership - from specialists to family physicians - ratify the deal by July.

Association president Dr. Nasir Jetha said the contract increases doctors' fees and provides more money to improve patient care.

"We have had a slight increase to cover the overhead costs of delivering services, and I can share with you that there is funding to support services for good patient care as part of our collaborative work," he said.

But reaction from the B.C. Anesthesiologists' Society to the "secret sweetheart deal" was swift and critical Friday.

The deal only serves to pour more taxpayer money into the "same dysfunctional system" that is seeing increasing recruitment problems and wait lists, said Dr. Jeff Rains, president of the society.

"This deal comes as no surprise to us given that the provincial government helps fund the administrative costs of the BCMA," said Dr. Roland Orfaly, the society's executive director.

Orfaly also noted that the CEO of the BCMA, Allan

Seckel, was previously the deputy minister to former premier Gordon Campbell.

The anesthesiologists' group wanted but was denied a seat at the negotiation table with the BCMA.

The government says it is now up to the medical association and all specialist groups to enter a binding process to allocate the $20 million it has provided for recruitment and retention of specialists.

"It seems to me that should address the kind of concerns we've heard in the past," de Jong said.

The specific details of the agreement won't be shared until the deal is ratified in July, he said.

Doctors are not employees of the government but rather individual practitioners who run a business and provide medical services for which government pays a fee.

As such, the deal was not negotiated under the government's net-zero mandate and was only partly guided by government's co-operative gains sharing mandate, in which savings are found to fund negotiated increases at no cost to taxpayers.


The breakdown of the tentative agreement, worth

$100 million, between the B.C. government and doctors:

? $18 million to improve access to primary care

? $10 million to expand access to physicians in rural and remote communities

? $18 million to enhance access to specialty medical services

? $0.5 million to support shared care between specialists and general practitioners

? $10 million (plus $10 million from existing agreement) toward recruiting and retaining specialists

? $14 million to respond to recruitment and retention issues for physicians on service or salary contracts

? $27 million to reflect the increased costs of providing insured services

? $2.7 million to support new procedures and advancements in care

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