02/12/2013 11:55 EST | Updated 04/14/2013 05:12 EDT

Alberta Medical Association President's Letter Says Redford's Comments About Doctors 'Inaccurate And Misleading'

EDMONTON - The nasty rhetoric in ongoing contract talks between the Alberta government and the province's doctors continues, with the latest salvo coming from the president of the Alberta Medical Association.

Dr. Michael Giuffre published an open letter to Premier Alison Redford on Tuesday, in which he accused her of making it tougher to recruit doctors as well as making "inaccurate and misleading" comments.

Last week Redford said Alberta doctors are already the highest paid in Canada and that a boost in doctors' pay may force her government to bring back health premiums.

On Tuesday, Giuffre disputed Redford's assertion that compensation for Alberta physicians is as much as 29 per cent higher than the national average, saying the accurate figure is 14 per cent.

He said part of the reason for that is because overhead costs are so high in Alberta.

As for reintroducing health premiums, Giuffre said that would provide the government with an estimated $1 billion in revenue while a one per cent increase in fees paid to doctors would cost the government just $30 million.

"When it comes to hours worked, Alberta doctors are among the hardest working in Canada according to the 2010 National Physician Survey," wrote Giuffre, saying Alberta doctors worked an average of 55 hours a week.

"The tone and content of your recent remarks places this success at risk," he said. "Perhaps unintentionally, the tenor of your comments vilifies Alberta’s physicians and creates an environment that will poison efforts to recruit and retain doctors in the future."

He said if the government provides no cost-of-living increase to doctors or cuts programming in its coming budget, "some medical practices in Alberta will no longer be viable; offices will close and patients will be without care.

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