Doctors want to deal

Barb Sweet & Steve Bartlett
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Letter arrives during news conference where NLMA was slammed

Twenty-three minutes and 16 seconds into a news conference critical of the physicians' approach to contract talks, Tom Marshall was handed a fax on Newfoundland and Labrador Medical Association (NLMA) letterhead.

"Late breaking news," the finance minister said after reading it Wednesday morning.

"We have a response from the doctors. They have rejected our offer in its entirety, but they've now indicated that they share a desire to reach a mutually acceptable agreement without further delays and they are prepared to meet with us at our earliest possible convenience."

Health Minister Jerome Kennedy unveils a campaign to counter one being waged by the province's physicians. Towards the end of the news conference Wednesday, he and Finance Minister Tom Marshall received a letter from the doctors indicating their desire to

Twenty-three minutes and 16 seconds into a news conference critical of the physicians' approach to contract talks, Tom Marshall was handed a fax on Newfoundland and Labrador Medical Association (NLMA) letterhead.

"Late breaking news," the finance minister said after reading it Wednesday morning.

"We have a response from the doctors. They have rejected our offer in its entirety, but they've now indicated that they share a desire to reach a mutually acceptable agreement without further delays and they are prepared to meet with us at our earliest possible convenience."

The sides have been entangled in a bitter contract standoff.

The physicians' remedy involves parity with their Atlantic Canadian peers.

They submitted a proposal to the province in March and have been requesting binding arbitration.

The province's prescription includes a $79-million offer that would give doctors a 24 per cent increase over four years, bringing them to 98 per cent parity with the rest of the region.

Marshall said he looked forward to negotiations continuing.

It was a change in tone from minutes earlier, when he was complaining about NLMA's lack of willingness to talk and Health Minister Jerome Kennedy was tearing strips off the organization's executive director, Rob Ritter.

The original intent of the news conference was to announce a public awareness campaign that responds to the information sessions and advertising being run by the NLMA.

The province's counter-initiative will cost $10,000 and involve a series of newspaper ads. The content explains about the offer to doctors and what's being done to address issues such as physician recruitment and retention.

Despite the arrival of the NLMA's fax, Kennedy said the campaign will continue. The public needs accurate information, he said.

"This information, in my mind, it's good news. It shows us taking steps to improve the health-care system and it's something that the people should know."

Earlier at the news conference, the health minister had referred to what the doctors are doing as a "misinformation" campaign. The NLMA's recent comments about the lack of psychiatrists in the province was one example he cited.

Since 2003 - the year the Tories took power - they have recruited 23 psychiatrists, Kennedy said, and in his book that's a significant increase.

"Even though we may not have as many psychiatrists as we need, it's very unfair to be out there saying that the government is not doing enough."

Prior to being handed the medical association's missive, Marshall had lamented how the doctors wanted to reach a deal through exchanging letters, not at the negotiating table - "the only place a deal can be done."

"I think it's shameful," he said. "I think it's disrespectful of the people of the province."

The NLMA's latest letter - given to reporters at the association's info session on palliative care an hour later - states Marshall has said his offer must be accepted or rejected in its entirety.

"Since we are unable and unwilling to accept your offer in its entirety, we reject it," it reads.

However, the fax says the doctors share the desire Marshall expressed in a May 4 letter to meet and reach a "mutually acceptable agreement."

It adds they want to do so without further delays.

At the doctors' event, Ritter said the message in Marshall's most recent letter resonated with his organization.

"I think there were several pleas on the part of the minister of finance for us to go back to the table. We feel we don't want to leave any stone unturned in terms of finding a negotiated settlement, so we are willing to make another effort yet again to try to come to some kind of mutually acceptable agreement," he said.

Late Wednesday, the NLMA confirmed meetings are scheduled with Marshall Friday morning.

Ritter wouldn't discuss which parts of the government's offer the doctors didn't like.

"There are certain elements in the proposal we thought were fine. But there are also a number of elements that are not fine," he said.

In response to Premier Danny Williams' description weeks ago of the NLMA as a house divided, the association has decided it will require 80 per cent of its membership to accept any offer, as opposed to the usual 60 per cent.

Meanwhile, with Kennedy characterizing the NLMA's ads and sessions as "a misinformation campaign," Ritter said the public has a right to know where chronic shortfalls in care are.

"I find it very unfortunate he would be making statements like that. It's behaviour unbecoming a minister, in my opinion," Ritter said.

"The fact of the matter is the physicians are sitting there every week talking about the challenges they face. They work very, very hard for the community of Newfoundland and Labrador. ... And to sort of be dismissed like that is disrespectful, and they deserve better than that."

The government's counter-campaign includes ads touting the 1,075 doctors practising in the province. According to Ritter, a headcount doesn't paint the whole picture.

"To deny or to pretend or to portray to the public that things are fantastic over here and (the province is) doing a great job is simply not to be telling the truth," he said.

Ritter vowed the NLMA will counter with its perspective and the public can decide what's accurate.

sbartlett@thetelegram.com

bsweet@thetelegram.com

Organizations: Newfoundland and Labrador Medical Association

Geographic location: Newfoundland and Labrador

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Recent comments

  • joseph
    July 02, 2010 - 13:34

    Yes, Jerome Kennedy needs a desk job!,He apparently can't handle the job at hand!,Who do these people think they are!,The almighty Danny included!,They should keep their opinions to themselves and serve the people and do what THEY are told! We are the bosses not the almighty Gov't at hand!!!,Maybe they should call themselves the aggressive Gov't

  • shirley
    July 02, 2010 - 13:34

    Unable to say it any better than many of the comments already posted. NEVER liked Jerome Kennedy as a defense lawyer & it absolutely sickens me to see him & also the premier speak/behave in the House/media.

  • Monique
    July 02, 2010 - 13:34

    Don: I'm not sure if you've ever been in a hospital in either ON or AB but I happen to work in one of those so-called bigger hospitals you mention-sorry to tell you but arrogance and poor bedside manners happens here too my friend and they get paid quite well regardless!
    Joe Power: Glad to hear your wife will earn what she deserves! My friend who is also a doctor was offered a job in NL that paid 3x less than the same type of doctor in ON-but was expected to do 3x more! Welcome to ON! It'll never be home but it's not so bad!

  • The Boy inside the Man
    July 02, 2010 - 13:33

    Minister Marshall, doesn't remember that he and his cronies established the Book on Negotiating in Newfoundland . Danny and his entourage, negotiated with Public Servants, Nurses, Teachers etc on the Picket Lines, via Open Line Shows, Supper Hour News Casts and in the House of Assembly. If they do not get what they want, they used the power of the Legislature to impose a deal. Repeatedly, they have shown that the accepted Labour Negotiation Process is NOT how they want to reach a deal. As a supporter of the administration, I was floored by this approach. As a Public Servant, I was dismayed by the approach of, Pound them in the Media , Pummel them in the House, manipulate the public opinion and force a NON-Negotiated Deal.

    This isn't a Danny problem, this is a government problem. Peckford did it during his administration, Clyde Wells, negotiated a contract and then used the Legislature to cancel it, and Danny continued the real Negotiating Practices of Newfoundland Governments.

    You pay the price, bullied, disgruntled workers no matter what their profession hate their jobs, perform poorly, struggle to work in poisoned environments where the leaders have established the true management practices.

    Some will do as I did, leave their 18 year career, re-establish themselves, move their family, and really, not look back.

    Most stay. Who really wins then.

  • Citizen of
    July 02, 2010 - 13:31

    Don, do you have a mind of your own, or will you support the Williams/Kennedy junta no matter what they do and who they completely disrespect and abuse?

    How much of a raise did you get??

  • crack
    July 02, 2010 - 13:31

    Hey, Joe Power: guess what? Criminal lawyers and ambulance chasers are not regulated; they can make as much as they want. Doctors are at the whim of socialized healthcare, which, by all accounts is unsustainable. It needs fixing.
    Problem : socialized healthcare. Tens of thousands of fat, fast food eating, cigarette smoking, out of shape slobs who rely on free drugs and socialized medicine to continue their piggish lifestyle. It is not sustainable. Somehow, lawyers remain free market, but doctors are socialized. Just wierd.

  • Garett
    July 02, 2010 - 13:31

    Ridiculous.
    That fella is so full of spite.
    Time for his soap box to be turned to kindling, methinks.
    No need for this saucyness.

  • Aubrey
    July 02, 2010 - 13:30

    Jerome Kennedy's disrespect and arrogance was evident when he stated that the letter he and Tom Marshall received during their news conference was signed by ' Ritter '. Not ' Mr. Ritter 'or 'Bob Ritter '. Simply ' Ritter '. Kennedy couldn't care less that his disrespect for Mr. Ritter is so obvious. No doubt his comments, in private, regarding Mr. Ritter ,would turn the air blue.
    Mr. Ritter comes across as a calm, intelligent individual who expresses himself clearly, while Kennedy always looks and sounds like someone who needs to be sedated.

  • b
    July 02, 2010 - 13:27

    Anybody that knows Kennedy should not be shocked by his loud argumentative behavior.

  • Gig
    July 02, 2010 - 13:25

    is anyone else sick of hearing from Jerome Kennedy?
    that man needs to learn to shut the hell up and let the contracts be dealt with properly.
    I'm not a doctor nor in the health care profession, but all im saying is the man makes a spectacle of everything he deals with.
    will somebody muzzle that guy PLEASE!

  • Em
    July 02, 2010 - 13:24

    The type of response behavior Kennedy displays is equal to that of intimidation tactics. Totally unnecessary, unless of course you work for the mafia...

  • vrp
    July 02, 2010 - 13:21

    Newfoundland recruits a lot of good, foreign, doctors. Many, perhaps, most of them, use it as a gateway to greener pastures. Can you blame them for wanting to live and work in southern Nova Scotia as opposed to Northern Newfoundland - especially when the money is better in Nova Scotia? I'm surprised that any doctors stay here. I'm not involved in medical services at all, but, I realize that if we want to retain the people we recruit, we had better start thinking beyond mere parity with Atlantic Canada. The fact that Kennedy and Marshall, two lawyers, are leading the charge against the doctors simply brings a touch of satire to the issue. Maybe those two guys should be paid what they're worth rather than what they think they're worth. We could pass the [substantial] savings on to people whom society truly needs, people like doctors.

  • Lloyd
    July 02, 2010 - 13:21

    There was a time that I thought Jerome Kennedy would become a logical successor to Danny Williams. I no longer have this opinion. Mr. Kennedy is continually confrontational, shooting from the lip, most often unnecessarily. When will this man learn that success is best achieved with doses of sugar rather then vinegar. Mr. Kennedy, go do an introuctory Marketing course, there is much you need to learn!

  • Polly
    July 02, 2010 - 13:21

    Kennedy is in his element . Could this consummate actor have found the STAGE of his dreams ?

  • HSE
    July 02, 2010 - 13:20

    The Williams Administration seems to have anger management issues. Danny Williams recently verbally attacked a member of the opposition in a fashion which never would have been tolerated in the private sector. Mr. Williams would have been severely disciplined if not let go with cause for the comments. We are seeing a rapid decline in self-control and maturity in the workplace and in this Government.

    Now we have Minister Kennedy verbally attacking community members with threats and intimidation. These outbursts are not acceptable in a civilized society, nor should the electorate tolerate behaviour such as this from our public servants. These people work for us, and we have the right to hold them accountable for these outbursts and abusive actions. Failing to act on these rants and errors in judgment grants them further impunity from civil or legal recourse. The employer is not granted the right to verbally attack or otherwise threaten or intimidate co-workers. These issues need to be investigated and properly addressed before we have a complete break down of the political system in this province.

    12. A person in an establishment shall not harass another person in the establishment because of the race, religion, religious creed, sex, sexual orientation, marital status, family status, age, physical disability, mental disability, political opinion, colour or ethnic, national or social origin of that person.

    Under the Provincial Act, both Danny Williams and Minister Kennedy could be held in violation of the above act on the grounds of political opinion and social origin. That will be left to the lawyers to decide the exact terminology and clauses.

    The people of this province have had just about enough of this behaviour, and so have I. These people in government had better shape up in a hurry. They are no-longer trustworthy in my view, nor do they deserve our support.

    These issues and others will be the end all of this government. Too many foolish errors in law and judgment can not go unanswered. People are not that blind.

  • Don
    July 02, 2010 - 13:19

    The doctors are greedy and considers themselves above the average person on the street. If a nursing assistant or nurse had the bedside manners of a lot of these doctors they would be fired. Here in NL they should put up and shut-up. If they we're in some of the bigger hospitals in Ontario or Alberta they would have a choice either treat the patients with dignity or find another profession. They would never get away with their arrogance and bedside manners any other place but NL.

  • Almond
    July 02, 2010 - 13:19

    I hope Mr. Kennedy reads this and realizes his attacks are not warranted. They are over the top. If he stepped away from this I think it would be resolved quickly. He was much better handling the swine flu crisis. I am not in healthcare or the law field. And I am not liberal either. So please, Mr. Kennedy, calm DOWN.

  • J
    July 02, 2010 - 13:17

    If I move home do I have to re-grow my moustache?

  • Joe
    July 02, 2010 - 13:16

    Here are some simple facts
    - My wife is a family doctor.
    - To provide good care she feels 25 patients is her daily max.
    - She is compensated $27 per patient visit.
    - 30% goes to her overhead (office space, secretaries, supplies etc.)
    - 30% goes to taxes.
    - She receives:
    0 holidays
    0 statutory holidays
    0 personal days
    0 sick days
    No benefits
    No maternity leave (not even EI)
    No pension
    - If she works 48 weeks per year, she takes home $64,800.
    - We are struggling to pay off her dept which stands at $200,000 because of her 10 years of University education.
    - We don't own a house and cannot afford to buy one because of her dept.
    - We have two children and are struggling to pay for child care.
    - We love Newfoundland but are now forced to leave. (Ontario is offering her $375,000 / year salary position (no overhead or expenses, + benefits))
    - We hope to come back some day

  • Sea-Dog
    July 02, 2010 - 13:13

    I'm beginning to wonder-- just what is it-- the house af assembly or DAY-CARE-- it seems to be full of children

  • R.B.
    July 02, 2010 - 13:12

    Blatant aggression and unyielding intimidation is this government's entire modus operandi. No surprise given the characters involved.

  • DEE GEE
    July 02, 2010 - 13:09

    John Smith I guess you'd rather see Jerome the next time you become sick rather than a doctor ?
    This govt. can't negotiate with any group it's their way or no way.
    Listen to the people that have been in meetings with these people they've come out with tears in there eyes. Complete intimadation,even Jerome said on CBC the lawyer tactics in him might have come out.They're ruling with an iron fist and we all know what that symbol represents.

  • joseph
    July 01, 2010 - 20:24

    Yes, Jerome Kennedy needs a desk job!,He apparently can't handle the job at hand!,Who do these people think they are!,The almighty Danny included!,They should keep their opinions to themselves and serve the people and do what THEY are told! We are the bosses not the almighty Gov't at hand!!!,Maybe they should call themselves the aggressive Gov't

  • shirley
    July 01, 2010 - 20:24

    Unable to say it any better than many of the comments already posted. NEVER liked Jerome Kennedy as a defense lawyer & it absolutely sickens me to see him & also the premier speak/behave in the House/media.

  • Monique
    July 01, 2010 - 20:23

    Don: I'm not sure if you've ever been in a hospital in either ON or AB but I happen to work in one of those so-called bigger hospitals you mention-sorry to tell you but arrogance and poor bedside manners happens here too my friend and they get paid quite well regardless!
    Joe Power: Glad to hear your wife will earn what she deserves! My friend who is also a doctor was offered a job in NL that paid 3x less than the same type of doctor in ON-but was expected to do 3x more! Welcome to ON! It'll never be home but it's not so bad!

  • The Boy inside the Man
    July 01, 2010 - 20:22

    Minister Marshall, doesn't remember that he and his cronies established the Book on Negotiating in Newfoundland . Danny and his entourage, negotiated with Public Servants, Nurses, Teachers etc on the Picket Lines, via Open Line Shows, Supper Hour News Casts and in the House of Assembly. If they do not get what they want, they used the power of the Legislature to impose a deal. Repeatedly, they have shown that the accepted Labour Negotiation Process is NOT how they want to reach a deal. As a supporter of the administration, I was floored by this approach. As a Public Servant, I was dismayed by the approach of, Pound them in the Media , Pummel them in the House, manipulate the public opinion and force a NON-Negotiated Deal.

    This isn't a Danny problem, this is a government problem. Peckford did it during his administration, Clyde Wells, negotiated a contract and then used the Legislature to cancel it, and Danny continued the real Negotiating Practices of Newfoundland Governments.

    You pay the price, bullied, disgruntled workers no matter what their profession hate their jobs, perform poorly, struggle to work in poisoned environments where the leaders have established the true management practices.

    Some will do as I did, leave their 18 year career, re-establish themselves, move their family, and really, not look back.

    Most stay. Who really wins then.

  • Citizen of
    July 01, 2010 - 20:20

    Don, do you have a mind of your own, or will you support the Williams/Kennedy junta no matter what they do and who they completely disrespect and abuse?

    How much of a raise did you get??

  • crack
    July 01, 2010 - 20:19

    Hey, Joe Power: guess what? Criminal lawyers and ambulance chasers are not regulated; they can make as much as they want. Doctors are at the whim of socialized healthcare, which, by all accounts is unsustainable. It needs fixing.
    Problem : socialized healthcare. Tens of thousands of fat, fast food eating, cigarette smoking, out of shape slobs who rely on free drugs and socialized medicine to continue their piggish lifestyle. It is not sustainable. Somehow, lawyers remain free market, but doctors are socialized. Just wierd.

  • Garett
    July 01, 2010 - 20:19

    Ridiculous.
    That fella is so full of spite.
    Time for his soap box to be turned to kindling, methinks.
    No need for this saucyness.

  • Aubrey
    July 01, 2010 - 20:18

    Jerome Kennedy's disrespect and arrogance was evident when he stated that the letter he and Tom Marshall received during their news conference was signed by ' Ritter '. Not ' Mr. Ritter 'or 'Bob Ritter '. Simply ' Ritter '. Kennedy couldn't care less that his disrespect for Mr. Ritter is so obvious. No doubt his comments, in private, regarding Mr. Ritter ,would turn the air blue.
    Mr. Ritter comes across as a calm, intelligent individual who expresses himself clearly, while Kennedy always looks and sounds like someone who needs to be sedated.

  • b
    July 01, 2010 - 20:15

    Anybody that knows Kennedy should not be shocked by his loud argumentative behavior.

  • Gig
    July 01, 2010 - 20:11

    is anyone else sick of hearing from Jerome Kennedy?
    that man needs to learn to shut the hell up and let the contracts be dealt with properly.
    I'm not a doctor nor in the health care profession, but all im saying is the man makes a spectacle of everything he deals with.
    will somebody muzzle that guy PLEASE!

  • Em
    July 01, 2010 - 20:10

    The type of response behavior Kennedy displays is equal to that of intimidation tactics. Totally unnecessary, unless of course you work for the mafia...

  • Lloyd
    July 01, 2010 - 20:05

    There was a time that I thought Jerome Kennedy would become a logical successor to Danny Williams. I no longer have this opinion. Mr. Kennedy is continually confrontational, shooting from the lip, most often unnecessarily. When will this man learn that success is best achieved with doses of sugar rather then vinegar. Mr. Kennedy, go do an introuctory Marketing course, there is much you need to learn!

  • vrp
    July 01, 2010 - 20:05

    Newfoundland recruits a lot of good, foreign, doctors. Many, perhaps, most of them, use it as a gateway to greener pastures. Can you blame them for wanting to live and work in southern Nova Scotia as opposed to Northern Newfoundland - especially when the money is better in Nova Scotia? I'm surprised that any doctors stay here. I'm not involved in medical services at all, but, I realize that if we want to retain the people we recruit, we had better start thinking beyond mere parity with Atlantic Canada. The fact that Kennedy and Marshall, two lawyers, are leading the charge against the doctors simply brings a touch of satire to the issue. Maybe those two guys should be paid what they're worth rather than what they think they're worth. We could pass the [substantial] savings on to people whom society truly needs, people like doctors.

  • Polly
    July 01, 2010 - 20:05

    Kennedy is in his element . Could this consummate actor have found the STAGE of his dreams ?

  • HSE
    July 01, 2010 - 20:03

    The Williams Administration seems to have anger management issues. Danny Williams recently verbally attacked a member of the opposition in a fashion which never would have been tolerated in the private sector. Mr. Williams would have been severely disciplined if not let go with cause for the comments. We are seeing a rapid decline in self-control and maturity in the workplace and in this Government.

    Now we have Minister Kennedy verbally attacking community members with threats and intimidation. These outbursts are not acceptable in a civilized society, nor should the electorate tolerate behaviour such as this from our public servants. These people work for us, and we have the right to hold them accountable for these outbursts and abusive actions. Failing to act on these rants and errors in judgment grants them further impunity from civil or legal recourse. The employer is not granted the right to verbally attack or otherwise threaten or intimidate co-workers. These issues need to be investigated and properly addressed before we have a complete break down of the political system in this province.

    12. A person in an establishment shall not harass another person in the establishment because of the race, religion, religious creed, sex, sexual orientation, marital status, family status, age, physical disability, mental disability, political opinion, colour or ethnic, national or social origin of that person.

    Under the Provincial Act, both Danny Williams and Minister Kennedy could be held in violation of the above act on the grounds of political opinion and social origin. That will be left to the lawyers to decide the exact terminology and clauses.

    The people of this province have had just about enough of this behaviour, and so have I. These people in government had better shape up in a hurry. They are no-longer trustworthy in my view, nor do they deserve our support.

    These issues and others will be the end all of this government. Too many foolish errors in law and judgment can not go unanswered. People are not that blind.

  • Don
    July 01, 2010 - 20:02

    The doctors are greedy and considers themselves above the average person on the street. If a nursing assistant or nurse had the bedside manners of a lot of these doctors they would be fired. Here in NL they should put up and shut-up. If they we're in some of the bigger hospitals in Ontario or Alberta they would have a choice either treat the patients with dignity or find another profession. They would never get away with their arrogance and bedside manners any other place but NL.

  • Almond
    July 01, 2010 - 20:00

    I hope Mr. Kennedy reads this and realizes his attacks are not warranted. They are over the top. If he stepped away from this I think it would be resolved quickly. He was much better handling the swine flu crisis. I am not in healthcare or the law field. And I am not liberal either. So please, Mr. Kennedy, calm DOWN.

  • J
    July 01, 2010 - 19:57

    If I move home do I have to re-grow my moustache?

  • Joe
    July 01, 2010 - 19:57

    Here are some simple facts
    - My wife is a family doctor.
    - To provide good care she feels 25 patients is her daily max.
    - She is compensated $27 per patient visit.
    - 30% goes to her overhead (office space, secretaries, supplies etc.)
    - 30% goes to taxes.
    - She receives:
    0 holidays
    0 statutory holidays
    0 personal days
    0 sick days
    No benefits
    No maternity leave (not even EI)
    No pension
    - If she works 48 weeks per year, she takes home $64,800.
    - We are struggling to pay off her dept which stands at $200,000 because of her 10 years of University education.
    - We don't own a house and cannot afford to buy one because of her dept.
    - We have two children and are struggling to pay for child care.
    - We love Newfoundland but are now forced to leave. (Ontario is offering her $375,000 / year salary position (no overhead or expenses, + benefits))
    - We hope to come back some day

  • Sea-Dog
    July 01, 2010 - 19:51

    I'm beginning to wonder-- just what is it-- the house af assembly or DAY-CARE-- it seems to be full of children

  • R.B.
    July 01, 2010 - 19:50

    Blatant aggression and unyielding intimidation is this government's entire modus operandi. No surprise given the characters involved.

  • DEE GEE
    July 01, 2010 - 19:45

    John Smith I guess you'd rather see Jerome the next time you become sick rather than a doctor ?
    This govt. can't negotiate with any group it's their way or no way.
    Listen to the people that have been in meetings with these people they've come out with tears in there eyes. Complete intimadation,even Jerome said on CBC the lawyer tactics in him might have come out.They're ruling with an iron fist and we all know what that symbol represents.