Life / Health

Alberta physicians, government reach deal to make system sustainable over time

The new deal aims to compensate doctors for time and quality rather than just the number of services.

The province says 74 per cent of doctors have voted in favour of a tentative agreement reached last summer.

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The province says 74 per cent of doctors have voted in favour of a tentative agreement reached last summer.

EDMONTON — Alberta's NDP government says the province's physicians have ratified a new deal that both sides say will make the system more efficient over time.

The province says 74 per cent of doctors have voted in favour of a tentative agreement reached last summer.

It calls for amending the terms of an existing Alberta Medical Association (AMA) contract that runs until 2018.

Both sides say the amendments include a plan to put doctors in communities that need them and to improve primary care and information sharing.

It also aims to compensate doctors for time and quality of care given to patients — not just for the number of services provided.

Alberta has mainly relied on a fees-for-service system in which doctors bill the government for medical procedures based on amounts set out in a schedule.

Details of the changes and how much they will cost taxpayers were not released.

AMA President Dr. Padraic Carr said the deal is complex but will moderate spending on health care over time.

"We will now be assisting to moderate the rate of growth in physician expenditures, while maintaining quality of care," he wrote Monday on the AMA website. "This we will do in collaboration with government, sharing risk and responsibility."

Alberta Health Minister Sarah Hoffman said the agreement will improve patient care and keep the health system sustainable in the long-term.

The province expects to spend almost $20 billion on the health-care system this fiscal year, including $4.6 billion for physician compensation and development programs.

The deal is expected to be signed by the government and the AMA later this week.