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Alberta doctors look to provide the facts on compensation

Last Updated Aug 11, 2020 at 7:07 am MST

Pincher Creek doctors will continue to work shifts in the local hospital despite threatening not to, (CREDIT: iStock)

EDMONTON (660 NEWS) –The Alberta Medical Association (AMA) is hoping to clear the air on how much provincial doctors are actually being paid.

The AMA released a document Monday providing details and facts on physician compensation in Alberta.

This comes as Health Minister Tyler Shandro proposed a “Sunshine List” to make doctors’ compensation public.

However, the AMA said the proposal is more about intimidation than transparency.

“Most of the physicians I’ve spoken to tell me they have no problem whatsoever with patients knowing what they make, but they have a real issue with Albertans thinking that what they bill is what they take home. That simply isn’t the case,” said President of the AMA, Dr. Christine Molnar.

Molnar added Shandro’s plan will only show gross billing amounts which is an extreme misrepresentation of what doctors actually earn.

The document states that many medical practices operate as small businesses meaning they have overhead costs to deal with.

These costs include rent and utilities, medical staff, insurance, property and business taxes and payroll and accounting.

The AMA said for most doctors’ offices, these costs can range between 40 to 50 per cent of their total annual billings. The average family doctor in Alberta makes roughly $200,000 before taxes in annual income despite billing the health care system around $340,000.

For specialty services such as radiology and dermatology, the overhead costs could amount to around 70 per cent.

“What Alberta doctors earn is comparable to most other provinces in Canada,” said Molnar, “Other jurisdictions such as B.C., Nova Scotia and Ontario have recently increased their funding for physicians, but that’s not something we’re looking for in Alberta.

“In fact, in an effort to help address Alberta’s difficult fiscal challenges, physicians here are looking to reduce their earnings over the next three years provided the government is actually willing to work with us to implement this.”

RELATED: ‘A toxic situation’: Majority of Alberta doctors vote no-confidence in Health Minister

Molnar added many doctors are facing large amounts of debt from financing their education and medical training, which typically lasts eight years, plus two to eight more years of post-graduate training.

The AMA is concerned with publishing a sunshine list right now, saying the COVID-19 pandemic will greatly distort the information as it comes from the 2019 billing cycle.

Shandro responded to the document on Monday saying the government supports paying physicians well, adding that holding spending at this level in the midst of the economic crisis facing this province is more than reasonable.

“The AMA needs to stop these empty tactics and start taking $5.4 billion a year of taxpayers’ money seriously – it’s 10% of the entire Government of Alberta budget.”

“The AMA has never made a credible offer that meets our priority of holding spending on physicians at the current level, the highest per capita in Canada.”

Last month, the AMA held a vote where over 90 per cent of members said they have no confidence in Shandro as Health Minister.

Despite the vote, Premier Jason Kenney has affirmed Shandro’s role saying he’s done a good job during the COVID-19 pandemic.