Doctors go public with contract proposals

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Barb Sweet
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The Newfoundland and Labrador Medical Association (NLMA) opened its contract proposals to the media Tuesday and will soon take its case to public information sessions.
"We're forced now at this point in time to explain our situation - to provide the public with what our thoughts are, which we think are pretty reasonable," NLMA president Dr. Brendan Lewis told reporters.
"This is not a pressure tactic," executive director Rob Ritter said.
"The Pandora's box was opened by the premier."
Among its proposals, the NLMA wants parity with physicians in Atlantic Canada for all its 1,100 members.
The increases, about 25 per cent of what's now spent on doctors' pay, would put Newfoundland and Labrador doctors in the middle of what their counterparts are paid, Lewis said.
"We don't want the top scale," he said.
The NLMA estimates the four-year contract would cost in the ballpark of $80 million on top of the $330 million a year currently spent on doctors' pay.
Increases for individual doctors would vary, as some already have parity.
Raises range from zero per cent - oncologists and pathologists were already given a 35 per cent hike - to 35 per cent for highly mobile and in-demand emergency room doctors.
There are two types of doctors in the province; those who charge a fee for each service they perform and those who are on salary.

Doctors want parity
Salaried family doctors would see a 13 per cent increase to get Atlantic parity, and salaried specialists would get 27 per cent.
In releasing the terms, set out in a March 3 letter to Finance Minister Tom Marshall, the NLMA said it was forced to do so by Premier Danny Williams, who broke faith with the spirit of negotiating in private.
Williams told the media the doctors' demands were, "through the roof. Too high. Can't be dealt with. Can't be satisfied. Can't be answered."
The NLMA said it has had no proper response to its March 3 letter and wants any reply from government in writing.
"The very first response we get is from the premier saying that it's through the roof, too high and unacceptable. We have to lay the record straight," Lewis said.
"We could not let that rest. That was a portrayal of physicians in a negative way. It was a portrayal of the NLMA in a negative way, so we wanted the public to judge for themselves just how unreasonable we have been," Ritter said.
Last week, the doctors asked for binding arbitration.
In a letter back to them, Williams accused the association of making threats and spre-ading misleading information by claiming the government called off talks when, according to the province, it had cancelled just one meeting.
"Why did he violate the confidentiality of our negotiations - something we mutually agreed to?" Lewis asked reporters Monday.
"Our demand for binding arbitration is intended simply to advance a paralyzed process and get on with the business of health-care delivery - it is not a threat or a misleading statement."
"Right now Danny Williams is the judge, the jury and the executioner," Ritter said.
"He makes all the decisions. If they respond to us in writing in a reasonable way, we might just reconsider."
There are 10 requests the NLMA has made to the government including everything from covering overhead for specialists who practise outside hospitals, special allowances for doctors who practise in rural areas and Labrador and the 35 per cent hike for emergency room doctors to keep them in the province.
The NLMA is also asking the government to address fees for new procedures that aren't currently listed, increased fees for telemedicine and on-call duties, a physician liaison committee to interact with the government and an administrative compensation for salaried doctors to do "shadow billing."
Shadow billing is paperwork to show how much work the salaried doctors do by breaking down the fee they'd get for each service if they weren't on salary.
There's also a proposed $6-million-a-year clinical stabilization fund that would address fee compensation for introducing new services or technologies and other market factors.
Some specialists already have parity, but the NLMA figures overall its doctors only have 88 per cent parity with the rest of Atlantic Canada, a slip from 95 per cent several years ago.
The NLMA has also built into its proposals a three per cent a year increase to maintain parity as doctors in other provinces get raises. The NLMA said it's flexible on that percentage, depending on what the others get.

bsweet@thetelegram.com

Organizations: Newfoundland and Labrador Medical Association

Geographic location: Atlantic Canada, Newfoundland and Labrador

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Recent comments

  • Nancy
    July 02, 2010 - 13:34

    Nurses, doctors and other professional people can leave NF and make more money. NF has to compensate educated professionals for the services they provide or they will leave. Yes, as a result of unions there are many people who are paid too much for the work they do. People in these types of jobs are not being lured away from the province as their salary would be equal or less than what they are currently making. If educated, professional people continue to leave in search of more income and better opportunities all the citizens of NF will suffer.

  • John Doe
    July 02, 2010 - 13:33

    Devon, I don't think the premier got into this racket for the popularity, but I do agree that it is fickle. I expect the premier's popularity will wane over the next few years, probably even go as low as 60% approval, that's just the way it goes. I think we should just give the doctors a million dollars each, they deserve it, right? No, let's make it two million each. We have to, we have no choice. We have to give the doctors everything they ask for, eventhough we are running a deficit, when it comes to docs, we have to give them whatever they deem fit. For that matter are our teachers, firefighters, police, nurses, plow drivers, etc. all getting the same as their counterparts in other provinces? NO. Let's give those guys all a million bucks too!

  • LOTTEE
    July 02, 2010 - 13:32

    Danny Danny Danny, while I am a strong supporter....today is not your day...I read this article...and was appalled at the fact you are playing russian roulette with our health...I defended you and your actions when leaving the country with your own health issues....Its clear and apparent now that if other newfoundlanders want decent treatment they too will have to leave the province...you are abolising the good health care professionals away by not paying them what they are worth. yet your cabinet rakes in the dollars for being the village idiots on a day to day basis.... br Danny boy....sit down...ponder for a moment. Have you been rewarding those in power under you based on their abilities - are they paid based on the NORM elsewhere in Atlantic Canada???? So should our doctors......I would hazard a guess if they were paid for the quality of work they do...theres a big chunk of that $80 million already...over the course of a few years...the province would easily recoup the exspense of having excellent medical providers... br br Just me...thinking i

  • Chris
    July 02, 2010 - 13:31

    Would someone from the NLMA please explain to my why my 8+ years of post secondary education is worth about 10% of what a Doctor, with perhaps 10-12 years, gets paid?

    Answer: because they have us by the short and curlys. Medical associations have been legislated the authority to dictate the numbers entering medical schools....hence choking off the supply of doctors so they can ask for ridiculous pay hikes.

    We will encounter this negotiation standoff every few years until we get to the root of the matter....medical associations should not have the authority to regulate the supply of educated professionals.

  • beachrock
    July 02, 2010 - 13:30

    Starting any negotiation you start high knowing it will be beat down. I doubt even the doctors think they will get what their first asking price is, although it would put them mid-pack with their Atlantic colleagues ! So anyone harping on this 35% opening bid has either no clue about negotiating, or is sensationalizing without due consideration of what the regional norm is. I for one would want to be on top of the pay scale to stay in such a dismal place like NL when there are much more developed and civilized cities in Canada with beautiful weather I could work in. Doctors who chose to sacrifice themselves to stay truly deserve a premium in pay.

  • Realist
    July 02, 2010 - 13:27

    Chris from NL says, 'Would someone from the NLMA please explain to my why...' br br br You ('my') already have the answer, so what do you want the NLMA to tell you ? You should have chose to become a doctor instead of waste those 8+ for only 10 percent of what they make. br br br But to ease your pain, I find myself in a very similar boat. It's not the doctors, they themselves are only getting 65% of what they can make if they move out of the province, it's this very limited NL economy. You have to leave this province to earn what you are truly worth in your field. Every employer in NL wants their employees to work for pennies on the dollar. There is really something wrong here. The good thing about being a doctor in NL is that every place needs doctors, especially if it is full of unhealthy geriatrics like NL where our favourite food is deep fried salt.

  • mercedes
    July 02, 2010 - 13:19

    To the NLMA; we didn't need your explanation but thank you anyway. We deeply value you and are behind you all the way.

  • Patrick
    July 02, 2010 - 13:18

    35%??? Do these people think they are nurses or something??

  • coda
    July 02, 2010 - 13:16

    Telegram is slewing again. br $80 million only reflects the salary increase, it does not include the other items on the agenda, which is probably another $50 million. NLMA wouldn't dare talk about that stuff eh? br How long is this proposed contract supposed to be slated for anyways? br br For those of you who say, give the docs what they are asking for, then you better not grumble when the price of oil goes down and our taxes goes up. Cuz that will happen and you'll be stuck with your fixed pension going to taxes. br br Stick to your guns there Danny!!!

  • Jerry Seinfeld
    July 02, 2010 - 13:15

    Pandora's Box? So Williams opened this box to visit terrible harshness on NL or will the NLMA unleash the terrible harshness because Williams opened the box? How's that mythology stuff supposed to work again? Didn't Pandora's Box also contain hope? What's next, David vs. Goliath? That'd be sweet, lol. Danny would obviously be Goliath, but would a single stone from a slingshot actually work on someone who has such a thick skull?

  • Ron
    July 02, 2010 - 13:13

    A 35 percent pay hike, who do they think they are.

  • devon
    July 02, 2010 - 13:12

    Premier, popularity is a very fickle thing-you can very easily lose it as quickly as it came your way. Your colleagues should remember that their future is directly tied to you. Without you they would strand no better chance of getting elected than other would be politicians. Having said that, you are walking a very thin line with the medical association. That profession is very near and dear to our hearts and, l'am sure, the general public will stand for only so much. So what if our medical caregivers go down the tube. If you or your minions need care you don't have to wait for local medical care, it's off to the mainland you go. This is a general statement and not attributed to your recent situation. Our medical people should be given your fullest respect and consideration and their contract(s) must be given the highest priority-even over roads, civil servant increases,schools, the fishery and other popular vote getting and popularity contests.

  • qq more please
    July 02, 2010 - 13:11

    The NLMA estimates the four-year contract would cost in the ballpark of $80 million on top of the $330 million a year currently spent on doctors pay br br And br br Among its proposals, the NLMA wants parity with physicians in Atlantic Canada for all its 1,100 members. br br br So $410,000,000/1100 doctors = $372, 727.28 a year br br Pardon me while I get a tissue to wipe the tears in my eyes.

  • Laughable
    July 02, 2010 - 13:08

    Ron: Is the 35% pay hike really all you took from this article? br br Making a decision on where you stand based purely on a % without evaluating the base on which it is applied and comparing it to other provinces is irresponsible.

  • Nancy
    July 01, 2010 - 20:23

    Nurses, doctors and other professional people can leave NF and make more money. NF has to compensate educated professionals for the services they provide or they will leave. Yes, as a result of unions there are many people who are paid too much for the work they do. People in these types of jobs are not being lured away from the province as their salary would be equal or less than what they are currently making. If educated, professional people continue to leave in search of more income and better opportunities all the citizens of NF will suffer.

  • John Doe
    July 01, 2010 - 20:22

    Devon, I don't think the premier got into this racket for the popularity, but I do agree that it is fickle. I expect the premier's popularity will wane over the next few years, probably even go as low as 60% approval, that's just the way it goes. I think we should just give the doctors a million dollars each, they deserve it, right? No, let's make it two million each. We have to, we have no choice. We have to give the doctors everything they ask for, eventhough we are running a deficit, when it comes to docs, we have to give them whatever they deem fit. For that matter are our teachers, firefighters, police, nurses, plow drivers, etc. all getting the same as their counterparts in other provinces? NO. Let's give those guys all a million bucks too!

  • LOTTEE
    July 01, 2010 - 20:21

    Danny Danny Danny, while I am a strong supporter....today is not your day...I read this article...and was appalled at the fact you are playing russian roulette with our health...I defended you and your actions when leaving the country with your own health issues....Its clear and apparent now that if other newfoundlanders want decent treatment they too will have to leave the province...you are abolising the good health care professionals away by not paying them what they are worth. yet your cabinet rakes in the dollars for being the village idiots on a day to day basis.... br Danny boy....sit down...ponder for a moment. Have you been rewarding those in power under you based on their abilities - are they paid based on the NORM elsewhere in Atlantic Canada???? So should our doctors......I would hazard a guess if they were paid for the quality of work they do...theres a big chunk of that $80 million already...over the course of a few years...the province would easily recoup the exspense of having excellent medical providers... br br Just me...thinking i

  • Chris
    July 01, 2010 - 20:19

    Would someone from the NLMA please explain to my why my 8+ years of post secondary education is worth about 10% of what a Doctor, with perhaps 10-12 years, gets paid?

    Answer: because they have us by the short and curlys. Medical associations have been legislated the authority to dictate the numbers entering medical schools....hence choking off the supply of doctors so they can ask for ridiculous pay hikes.

    We will encounter this negotiation standoff every few years until we get to the root of the matter....medical associations should not have the authority to regulate the supply of educated professionals.

  • beachrock
    July 01, 2010 - 20:19

    Starting any negotiation you start high knowing it will be beat down. I doubt even the doctors think they will get what their first asking price is, although it would put them mid-pack with their Atlantic colleagues ! So anyone harping on this 35% opening bid has either no clue about negotiating, or is sensationalizing without due consideration of what the regional norm is. I for one would want to be on top of the pay scale to stay in such a dismal place like NL when there are much more developed and civilized cities in Canada with beautiful weather I could work in. Doctors who chose to sacrifice themselves to stay truly deserve a premium in pay.

  • Realist
    July 01, 2010 - 20:15

    Chris from NL says, 'Would someone from the NLMA please explain to my why...' br br br You ('my') already have the answer, so what do you want the NLMA to tell you ? You should have chose to become a doctor instead of waste those 8+ for only 10 percent of what they make. br br br But to ease your pain, I find myself in a very similar boat. It's not the doctors, they themselves are only getting 65% of what they can make if they move out of the province, it's this very limited NL economy. You have to leave this province to earn what you are truly worth in your field. Every employer in NL wants their employees to work for pennies on the dollar. There is really something wrong here. The good thing about being a doctor in NL is that every place needs doctors, especially if it is full of unhealthy geriatrics like NL where our favourite food is deep fried salt.

  • mercedes
    July 01, 2010 - 20:02

    To the NLMA; we didn't need your explanation but thank you anyway. We deeply value you and are behind you all the way.

  • Patrick
    July 01, 2010 - 19:59

    35%??? Do these people think they are nurses or something??

  • coda
    July 01, 2010 - 19:56

    Telegram is slewing again. br $80 million only reflects the salary increase, it does not include the other items on the agenda, which is probably another $50 million. NLMA wouldn't dare talk about that stuff eh? br How long is this proposed contract supposed to be slated for anyways? br br For those of you who say, give the docs what they are asking for, then you better not grumble when the price of oil goes down and our taxes goes up. Cuz that will happen and you'll be stuck with your fixed pension going to taxes. br br Stick to your guns there Danny!!!

  • Jerry Seinfeld
    July 01, 2010 - 19:55

    Pandora's Box? So Williams opened this box to visit terrible harshness on NL or will the NLMA unleash the terrible harshness because Williams opened the box? How's that mythology stuff supposed to work again? Didn't Pandora's Box also contain hope? What's next, David vs. Goliath? That'd be sweet, lol. Danny would obviously be Goliath, but would a single stone from a slingshot actually work on someone who has such a thick skull?

  • Ron
    July 01, 2010 - 19:51

    A 35 percent pay hike, who do they think they are.

  • devon
    July 01, 2010 - 19:49

    Premier, popularity is a very fickle thing-you can very easily lose it as quickly as it came your way. Your colleagues should remember that their future is directly tied to you. Without you they would strand no better chance of getting elected than other would be politicians. Having said that, you are walking a very thin line with the medical association. That profession is very near and dear to our hearts and, l'am sure, the general public will stand for only so much. So what if our medical caregivers go down the tube. If you or your minions need care you don't have to wait for local medical care, it's off to the mainland you go. This is a general statement and not attributed to your recent situation. Our medical people should be given your fullest respect and consideration and their contract(s) must be given the highest priority-even over roads, civil servant increases,schools, the fishery and other popular vote getting and popularity contests.

  • qq more please
    July 01, 2010 - 19:47

    The NLMA estimates the four-year contract would cost in the ballpark of $80 million on top of the $330 million a year currently spent on doctors pay br br And br br Among its proposals, the NLMA wants parity with physicians in Atlantic Canada for all its 1,100 members. br br br So $410,000,000/1100 doctors = $372, 727.28 a year br br Pardon me while I get a tissue to wipe the tears in my eyes.

  • Laughable
    July 01, 2010 - 19:44

    Ron: Is the 35% pay hike really all you took from this article? br br Making a decision on where you stand based purely on a % without evaluating the base on which it is applied and comparing it to other provinces is irresponsible.