Con­tract dis­pute still stale­mated

Doc­tors want govern­ment re­sponses in writ­ing

The Southern Gazette - - NEWS -

Fi­nance Min­is­ter Tom Mar­shall is ask­ing the New­found­land and Labrador Med­i­cal As­so­ci­a­tion (NLMA) to come back to the ta­ble, but the doc­tors want a re­sponse to their lat­est let­ter be­fore de­cid­ing what hap­pens next. The NLMA sent a let­ter to govern­ment this week seek­ing clar­ity on its $79-mil­lion con­tract of­fer last week, which in­cluded 98 per cent par­ity with doc­tors in the other At­lantic prov­inces. The NLMA has called the of­fer vague and asked for clar­i­fi­ca­tion on a num­ber of points.

The doc­tors had been in­sist­ing on bind­ing ar­bi­tra­tion, but the next step de­pends on Mr. Mar­shall’s re­ply. NLMA pres­i­dent Dr. Bren­dan Lewis said Thurs­day “On the ba­sis of (Mr. Mar­shall’s re­ply) let­ter, we will make some de­ci­sions on where we will go. “ We’re pre­pared to look at any­thing. Our goal is to come to some res­o­lu­tion on this par­tic­u­lar mat­ter.” NLMA ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor Rob Rit­ter sug­gested “If we can find a path­way that re­sults in a mu­tu­ally agree­able so­lu­tion, we are will­ing to try that path­way.”


The NLMA has in­sisted on replies in writ­ing, say­ing it can’t trust ver­bal re­sponses from the govern­ment. Mr. Rit­ter re­ferred to com­ments Danny Wil­liams made weeks ago about the doc­tors’ de­mands be­ing through the roof.

“ We spent 15 months talk­ing. At the end of 15 months, we weren’t clear at all where we stood. The only re­sponse we got was 15 words of con­dem­na­tion from the premier.”

In a news re­lease Thurs­day, Mr. Mar­shall said he would re­spond to the NLMA request in a timely man­ner. “ We will also re­peat our re­quests to the NLMA to re­turn to the ta­ble for face-to-face ne­go­ti­a­tions so the process can be ex­pe­dited.

“ The NLMA has a re­spon­si­bil­ity, as does govern­ment, to ne­go­ti­ate a deal that is sus­tain­able and in the long-term in­ter­est of the peo­ple of New­found­land and Labrador.”


Mean­while, on the same day the NLMA pre­sented its fifth ses­sion ad­dress­ing doc­tor short­ages, Health Min­is­ter Jerome Kennedy said in a news re­lease New­found­land and Labrador has more physi­cians em­ployed than at any time in the his­tory of the prov­ince.

“Our govern­ment is com­mit­ted to pro­vid­ing the best pos­si­ble health care ser­vices to the res­i­dents in our prov­ince and a key piece of that com­mit­ment is the re­cruit­ment and re­ten­tion of our physi­cians.

“Our re­cruit­ment ef­forts are clearly work­ing. In 2009, our govern­ment re­cruited 72.5 per cent of the physi­cians grad­u­at­ing from Me­mo­rial Uni­ver­sity Med­i­cal School res­i­dency pro­grams who com­menced prac­tice that year.”

Mr. Kennedy said var­i­ous bur­sary pro­grams for fam­ily prac­tice, spe­cial­ists and psy­chi­a­try have been suc­cess­ful. Since 2004, the pro­vin­cial govern­ment has awarded 299 bur­saries, each with a one-year re­turn-in-ser­vice com­mit­ment, to 177 Me­mo­rial Uni­ver­sity med­i­cal school ap­pli­cants.

“As a re­sult of all of these ef­forts, right now we have more physi­cians prac­tis­ing in this prov­ince than ever be­fore. As of Septem­ber 2009, there were 1,042 physi­cians prac­tis­ing in New­found­land and Labrador, in­clud­ing 508 gen­eral prac­ti­tion­ers and 534 spe­cial­ists.”

The NLMA said ac­cord­ing to the num­bers it has re­ceived, roughly half of med­i­cal school grad­u­ates stayed in the prov­ince from the class of 2008, and num­bers fluc­tu­ated near that for sev­eral years prior.

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