No resolution in sight

Deana Stokes Sullivan
Send to a friend

Send this article to a friend.

Doctors, cabinet ministers continue to present opposing arguments

Dr. Patrick O'Shea speaks to the media Monday about the recent resignations of 14 medical specialists.

The Newfoundland and Labrador Medical Association (NLMA) and the provincial government continued to argue opposing points publicly Monday in a dispute about a two-tier system for salaried medical specialists, still with no resolution in sight.

Health Minister Jerome Kennedy told reporters at Confederation Building Monday he met with Eastern Health president and CEO Vickie Kaminski earlier in the day to discuss recruitment plans to fill positions being vacated by disgruntled salaried specialists.

“Ms. Kaminski should be in a position a little later on in the week to discuss exactly what Eastern Health will do,” Kennedy said.

Fourteen resignations

On Friday, the NLMA confirmed 13 salaried specialists were resigning, effective Feb. 4, 2011, including 12 from Eastern Health and one from Western Health. The number has since grown to 14, with Dr. Joan Quinn, a psychiatrist with Eastern Health in Carbonear, also tendering her resignation.

NLMA president Dr. Patrick O’Shea said Monday family doctors like himself are worried the resignations will cause longer patient wait times.

“Patients are already today, this morning, in my office starting to wonder what’s going to happen with their referrals,” O’Shea said, noting some have already been waiting six months and, if their appointments are after February, they may have to join another long wait list for another specialist.

Describing the resignations as “devastating,” O’Shea said, “There is no question that these resignations will further destabilize an already fragile system.”

As for the province’s plans to begin recruitment efforts immediately to fill the vacancies, O’Shea said he doesn’t believe that’s very realistic.

O’Shea said the health authorities have been trying to fill specialist positions for quite some time now and they’ve been constantly understaffed.

Kennedy said over the last two to three years, the province has recruited more than 50 new physicians, with about 25 to 30 specialists, which indicates recruitment initiatives, such as bursaries and retention bonuses are working.

Finance Minister Tom Marshall also disputed the NLMA’s claims that filling the vacancies will be a difficult task.

Marshall said when doctors apply for salaried specialist jobs, they normally ask whether they’ll be paid the same as everyone else in Atlantic Canada, rather than ask, “What’s the guy down the hall receiving?”

When negotiations with the NLMA began, the goal was to reach Atlantic parity, Marshall said, pointing out that the latest offer has addressed that.

The thorny issue, however, is that about 60 pathologists and oncologists who were given 35 per cent pay increases in 2008 will still be paid higher than 150 other salaried specialists.

O’Shea said the current base pay for the larger group of salaried specialists is about $180,000 a year, while the base pay for pathologists and oncologists is about $255,000. Government’s offer would raise the regular salaried specialists’ annual base pay to about $239,000 and the pathologists and oncologists base pay to about $276,000.

Kennedy said at least seven of the salaried specialists who are resigning also receive stipends above their base salaries for clinical work or for teaching at Memorial University.

Singling out Dr. Julia Trahey, an internal medicine specialist and clinical chief of quality assurance with Eastern Health, Kennedy said she’s paid a $95,000 stipend in addition to her base salary.

Kennedy said if government gives in to the demands of the resigning specialists, another group of fee-for-service specialists could demand the same, but there’s only so much money to go around.

Fee-for-service specialists, who are paid for their services but without a base salary, are being offered a 10 per cent increase.

Kennedy said salaried specialists don’t have to pay overhead costs like the fee-for-service specialists, they receive 10 weeks of guaranteed holidays a year, get pension benefits and the same medical and dental benefits as everyone else who works for government.

During the NLMA news conference, O’Shea also suggested the province’s liberation therapy clinical trial for multiple sclerosis patients could be in jeopardy with the resignation of neurologist Dr. Mark Stefanelli, director of Eastern Health’s MS program.

Kennedy, however, said Monday this is news to him. He said Stefanelli emailed his associate deputy minister Thursday, confirming that there would be a meeting on Nov. 16 with MS patients and indicating that he would continue with the observation study, no matter what.

Kennedy said if anything has changed, he’s not aware of it. He said some salaried specialists who are resigning may be staying in the province as fee-for-service specialists.

“So, whether or not they’re all leaving or just leaving their salaried positions, I don’t know that,” Kennedy said.

The NLMA board of directors plan to meet tonight to review government’s latest offer before sending packages of information to members for a vote around the middle of this month.

O’Shea couldn’t say Monday whether the board will make a recommendation to NLMA members on how to vote.

dss@thetelegram.com

Organizations: Newfoundland and Labrador Medical Association, Confederation Building

Geographic location: Carbonear, Atlantic Canada

  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5

Thanks for voting!

Top of page

Comments

Comments

Recent comments

  • Christine
    November 09, 2010 - 22:37

    I hope that Eastern Health does a better job of recruiting doctors than they did recruiting the yes man(woman) "Eastern Health president and CEO Vickie Kaminski". We have seen what the North delivers! Well, fourteen doctors deserve 14 ministers/MHA's.

  • Duffy
    November 09, 2010 - 20:20

    I agree there should not be a two-tierd system !!! BUT don't be foolish enough to think this is not about the money to the doctors who all make in the 100 thousands a year - this is not about patient care. We are and will be held hostage by both lawyers and doctors until we provide more medical schools/training with priority to Newfoundland Applicants and also stop blaming everyone else for everything that happens so lawyers can sue.

  • Be a Little Realistic
    November 09, 2010 - 14:44

    How much do the public really think we can afford to pay for services - be they doctors, lawyer, electricians , plumbers - you name it. The medical folks are already paid a reasonable fee, and guess what, they knew the renumeration BEFORE they took the job. Kudos to Kennedy, Hickman, Williams et.al - these high wage increases just can not be allowed to continue. What happens when the well runs dry, and the government no longer has all this great new revenue. Imagine the outcry if we started laying off doctors, or asking them to take wage cuts like has been the norm for the past 8 - 10 years in both the private and public sectors. I say to the government - stick to you guns, and look after my money the way I would.

  • Be a Little Realistic
    November 09, 2010 - 14:27

    How much do the public really think we can afford to pay for services - be they doctors, lawyer, electricians , plumbers - you name it. The medical folks are already paid a reasonable fee, and guess what, they knew the renumeration BEFORE they took the job. Kudos to Kennedy, Hickman, Williams et.al - these high wage increases just can not be allowed to continue. What happens when the well runs dry, and the government no longer has all this great new revenue. Imagine the outcry if we started laying off doctors, or asking them to take wage cuts like has been the norm for the past 8 - 10 years in both the private and public sectors. I say to the government - stick to you guns, and look after my money the way I would.

  • Marty
    November 09, 2010 - 13:25

    I think these speacilists make too much money as it is. They are among the top paid in Atlantic Canada. How much do they really need???????

  • Eastern Health Physician
    November 09, 2010 - 12:25

    In addition....10 weeks guaranteed holidays per year is news to me - Thanks Jerome, I'll remember that.

  • Eastern Health Physician
    November 09, 2010 - 11:56

    How is the fact that some of these physicians earn additional income by doing additional jobs relevant to the issue? The argument is equal pay for equal work. As to the argument that the raise for the oncologists was a one time offer and that Rob Ritter said it would not be used in negotiations......Mr. Ritter states this was not the case. Somebody is obviously lying or there was a major misunderstanding. My question is... if it was said, how can the government seriously state that they believed it? How could they possibly believe that a negotiating body and their members would put up with one subgroup being paid substantially more than the rest? This occurrence in 2008 has been horrible for morale within the physician group as it has indicated that certain types of physicians and patient groups are valued more than others. There are physicians who have resigned that slaved through the system being overworked for many years and when everybody was being treated equally they understood it was necessary. Now they feel unappreciated as well. The loss of these physicians will be devastating for patients, the university and medical trainees as well.

  • Tania
    November 09, 2010 - 10:08

    I find Tom Marshall's comment particularly interesting. He said that when doctors apply for positions they ask if they will be paid the same as everyone else in Atlantic Canada, not if they will be paid the same as the guy down the hall. Does he realize that now the entire country is aware that NL uses a two tired pay system? Mr. Jerome Kennedy think it's going to be easy to recruit new physicians after this mass resignation. Is anyone thinking about the fact that any new physician coming into this province is going to demand the higher salary so that they are on par with the oncologists/pathologists? Of course new physicians want to make what the guy down the hall is making.

  • patient
    November 09, 2010 - 08:57

    In the last four years l've been rushed to hospital 3 times in critical condition. Asfar as l'am concerned, those Doctors can never be paid enough.Let the nay sayers go through a medical crisis just once and see how quick they would change there tune. Why can't both sides agree on a formula based on say a Canadian average? The Goverment is way out to lunch on this one- Minister back off, you can't win, but we sure can all lose. Two more points- The ambulance staff should never be foregotten. They are a critical link in our whole health care system. And oh yes, Doctor O'Shea is my own family Doctor and a more honest,decent, caring and hard working person you will not find anywhere.. As far as l.am concerned, when he says something, you can take it to the bank.

  • salli
    November 09, 2010 - 08:51

    I think it is ridiculous for Jerome Kennedy to tell us he is already in the process of replacing these specialists....really?? You can replace their expertise? their patient knowledge?? their years of working with patients knowing their history and personalities?? I don't think so. I am starting to think Jerome Kennedy should resign.

  • don
    November 09, 2010 - 07:35

    The doctors are right and should never back down from Dictator Danny. I hope that many other doctors and health professionals will publicly signal their intention to resign and move away from Newfoundland and Labrador unless the little dictator tones down the political rhetoric and starts treating people in this province with respect and fairness. If it becomes necessary for medical professionals to take actions which paralyze or destroy the health care system and cause the Government to go into crisis mode, so be it! When dealing with tyrant, half measures are not effective. Dictator Danny has gone to great lengths to gloat and expound on his opinion that Newfoundland and Labrador is now a HAVE PROVINCE swimming in oil and mineral revenue. The old Government position of WE ARE A POOR PROVINCE AND CAN'T AFFORD IT, just won't wash anymore.

  • Dave
    November 09, 2010 - 07:09

    Way to go jerome, single out a doctor and drag them through the mud. You might as well do it to all of them, oh yeah, you already have in many ways. Boy, it must be just wonderful having all that power. So what's wrong with working extra jobs with patients and students? Someone apparently has to do it if they are are. I guess it shows that services are really lacking everywhere.