The Newfoundland and Labrador Medical Association (NLMA) Board of Directors announced today it has endorsed a new offer from the provincial government.
According to a news release, the offer, which includes 100 per cent Atlantic parity within the first two years of the agreement, pay equity for salaried specialists, and retention bonuses for fee-for-service rural physicians, was made after two weeks of ongoing discussions with the province’s ministers of Health and Finance.
Government has also agreed to the principle of binding arbitration as a dispute resolution mechanism for future agreements.
The announcement of the tentative agreement was made this morning during a news conference at Confederation Building in St. John’s.
Ratification votes must now be held.
At the news conference, Premier Kathy Dunderdale announced the provincial government successfully reached a tentative agreement with the NLMA.
“This agreement will significantly add to our existing initiatives to further strengthen physician recruitment and retention in all areas of our province, while recognizing physicians for their commitment and dedication,” Dunderdale said. “I am fully confident that this agreement is, most importantly, in the interest of the people of our province and of Newfoundland and Labrador’s doctors.”
According to the provincial government news release, the new four-year agreement provides an additional $87.7 million to the annual physician services budget, an increase of approximately 26 per cent, which will result in all fee-for-service physicians and salaried general practitioners being paid at Atlantic parity, and all salaried specialists receiving the increase provided to oncologists and pathologists in 2008. As well, increases are allowed for in the agreement to help physicians maintain Atlantic parity during the remainder of the agreement. In addition, the agreement allows for a one-time investment of approximately $12 million for physician retention. As part of this agreement, 13 of the 14 salaried specialists who had submitted resignations have now withdrawn them and will remain in their current positions.
The tentative agreement includes the following:
· 100 per cent Atlantic parity for fee-for-service physicians fully implemented as of October 1, 2010 with a six per cent maintenance factor effective in year four of the agreement;
· Approximately $3.2 million to provide retention bonuses for rural fee-for-service specialists and general practitioners;
· $570,000 to be added to the current retention bonus payment policy for salaried physicians working in Labrador in recognition of remoteness;
· Salaried specialists will receive the increase provided to oncologists and pathologists in 2008, fully implemented as of October 1, 2010 and a one-time retention payment of eight per cent to be paid out at the end of the agreement;
· Salaried general practitioners to receive 100 per cent of Atlantic parity fully implemented as of October 1, 2010, with a six per cent maintenance factor as of October 1, 2012, and a one-time retention payment of eight per cent to be paid out at the end of the agreement;
· Oncologists and pathologists to receive a one-time retention payment of eight per cent to be paid at the end of the agreement;
· 100 per cent Atlantic parity for on-site emergency department coverage, fully implemented as of October 1, 2010 with a six per cent maintenance factor effective in year four of the agreement;
· Salaried university physicians with a full-time appointment to have an increase in their clinical payment from 0.8 full-time equivalents (FTEs) to 0.85 FTEs as of April 1, 2011 and further increased to 0.9 FTEs as of April 1, 2012;
· An increase of $4 million to the on-call budget to be phased in over the last three years of the agreement. Both parties have agreed to conduct a mutual review of the current provincial on-call program; and,
· $2.3 million to change the current model of payment for off-site emergency department coverage in rural Newfoundland and Labrador.
“The process leading up to this agreement was an arduous one and I am pleased to have reached this point of resolution,” Marshall said. “This agreement strikes a good balance between managing the public treasury responsibly and providing a deal that acknowledges the important work of physicians, which was a key objective for government throughout the process.”
The four-year tentative agreement with the NLMA will cover the term from Oct. 1, 2009 to Sept. 30, 2013. The parties to this agreement will work towards a framework for binding arbitration for future contract negotiations.
“I am extremely pleased that government is committing the resources we need to attract new doctors to our province and keep them here,” said Dr. O’Shea. “Our board of directors, in recommending acceptance of this offer to our members, is indicating that we feel this is a fair agreement. It is good for physicians and, most importantly, it is good for the people of Newfoundland and Labrador. I believe this tentative agreement is a foundation we can use to rebuild a relationship that has been strained over the past two years. We look forward to working more closely with government in the coming year as we continue to address the needs of our patients.”