As the spectre of an anemic and potentially controversial budget looms closer, doctors told MLAs to get their own financial situations in order before using medical professionals as budgetary scapegoats.
Premier Alison Redford's government has set its sights squarely on Alberta's doctors, saying over the last few weeks that MDs here are paid higher than their national counterparts, which is something that may have to change under the province's new 'economic reality.'
"We know that doctors earn between 20 and 29 per cent more in Alberta than they do across the country," said Redford.
"Quite frankly, before I start asking Albertans to pay health care premiums, I want to make sure that we're getting the best deal possible with our doctors."
But doctors fired back Monday telling MLAs that if anyone is making more than the average it's those sitting in the legislature.
“If you compare our profession to other professions or plumbers or electricians or teachers, or whatever, it's quite consistent across,” the Alberta Medical Association's Dr. Michael Giuffre told CTV Calgary, which reported the average wage for Alberta doctors is $357,000 a year compared to the Canadian average of $307,000.
"In fact, even for politicians, MLAs, ministers, it’s all consistent across the board so, really, there is a bit of an oddity here that physicians are being singled out."
Alberta's MLAs are also some of the highest paid in the nation, Giuffre told the Calgary Herald, which reported that at $156,311 per year, Alberta legislators' wages are second only to Quebec.
In a letter to the AMA's 1,000 members last week, Giuffre said the amount the government is telling the public doctors in Alberta take home is incorrect and misleading.
"For the past seven days, the premier has been making inaccurate statements that Alberta physicians are paid 20-29% above the national average. She blames us for the province’s financial woes," he said, citing a backgrounder that says the margin is closer to 14 per cent, while costs and inflation are shown to be outstripping any gains made by doctors.
AMA numbers show the average MD putting 40 per cent of his cheque into staffing costs and 25 per cent going to office space.
"The premier’s behavior has been a problem.. She must cease making physicians her scapegoat for rising health care costs," he said in the letter.
Alberta Health Minister Fred Horne said the issue is about getting good value for the money the province spends on health care, the Herald reported.
“Nobody’s singling out physicians. Nobody’s saying they’re overpaid,” Horne said.
“What we’ve acknowledged is they’re well-paid compared to their counterparts in the country.”
-With Files From The Canadian Press