01/18/2013 02:35 EST | Updated 03/20/2013 05:12 EDT

Alberta Medical Association hopes to reach fee deal with province by mid-March

EDMONTON - The Alberta Medical Association hopes to reach a tentative agreement with the province on a new physician fee deal by the middle of March.

Association president Dr. Michael Giuffree (joo-free) says formal contract talks with the government began this week.

In a letter to doctors, he says the original plan was to get a deal by the end of February, but that has been pushed back due to the government's March 7 budget.

He says they want to wrap up negotiations before doctors gather on March 15 for the association's semi-annual representative forum meeting.

Giuffree says both he and Health Minister Fred Horne consider the goal to be ambitious, but want to conclude negotiations as soon as possible.

In November, the association balked when the government imposed a four-year, $463-million wage package on physicians.