Saskatchewan physicians just ratified a four-year agreement with the provincial government, which will offer a modest increase to their pay and a boost to operations. The contract, which extends from April 1, 2013 to March 31, 2017, sees an overall increase of 4.9 per cent, which is retroactive from the April starting date.
“So our base pay is not increasing in the first two years but we are getting some lump sum retroactive payment, which is a new concept, which is 1.5 per cent of everything we’ve done in the first two years that the contract has run,” said Mark Brown, president of the Saskatchewan Medical Association.
“We were really just over two years into the contract and that’s how long it’s taken for negotiations to come to a deal with government.”
The majority of the new funds will go into doctors’ pay, but a large portion will be used for quality of care, affording the physicians the opportunity to provide services that weren’t previously offered. Brown says much of the funding also has to do with paying the influx of doctors now practising in Saskatchewan, which has gone up by roughly 400 since 2007.
He also says this contract has many benefits for the Lloydminster area, in that it shows the government is going to continue funding programs that are in place to increase the amount of doctors working in rural areas.
“What I mean by that is that we negotiate funds to run things like the Rural Locum Program, which would allow a fellow doctor in a small town to take a holiday and have somebody take his place for a while,” said Brown.
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He says this is encouraging because when there is a financial pinch these rural programs will still be maintained and this is important because the biggest shortage of doctors is found in rural areas.
“We’re encouraged by the fact that the government has opted to continue to fund that to show that they really want to improve healthcare over all and specifically there’s ongoing concern that we need to improve all services in the rural areas.”