Contract dispute still stalemated
Doctors want government responses in writing
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.”
MORE DOCTORS THAN EVER
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.