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Recession puts raises promised to New Brunswick MDs in jeopardy

No one, it seems, is immune from the havoc the current recession is wreaking on the economy. Medicine is sometimes called "recession-proof" but when physicians are paid by the government, as they are in Canada, shrinking government revenues mean that the state's rapidly emptying coffers affect doctors much as they do civil servants.

Facing budget shortfalls, New Brunswick Health Minister Mike Murphy has asked the province's doctors to set aside the two-year contract they agreed on with the government last year and instead accept a two-year wage freeze. The government hasn't signed the agreement and may refuse to pay the doctors' raises regardless of the medical society's response to the minister's pleas.

Setting aside the raises would save the province's health system $36 million, Mr Murphy said. If that money isn't saved on doctors' pay, he said, it will have to come from cutbacks somewhere else. "If we were to turn the tentative agreement into a full agreement, we undoubtably would have to close down hospitals and shut down programs. Then the question is, where would we do that?"

Progressive Conservative health critic Margaret-Ann Blaney accused the government of negotiating in bad faith last year. "They have sabotaged this process from day one," said Ms Blaney. "They have shown the doctors no respect." [Saint John Telegraph-Journal]

Saint John Medical Society president Dr David Iles was pessimistic that physicians could stop the government from imposing its will. "We can ask for binding arbitration, but likely the government will legislate the freeze," he told the Telegraph-Journal. "If you look across the country, no other provincial government has imposed a freeze on doctors so they continue to have raises in salaries... Just to stay competitive across the nation, you need to at least honour our contract. Our salaried docs are well behind other doctors in the region."

New Brunswick doctors will simply leave the province if pay is frozen, said Dr Don Craig, the president of one of the province's medical staff organizations. "A loud sucking sound will hit the east and away we go." [Saint John Telegraph-Journal]

Mr Murphy, meanwhile, has apparently set out to make the province's physicians look like the bad guys. "There are patients of physicians in this province who are undoubtedly suffering some angst over the economy and the inability, sometimes, to pay the mortgage or pay for their children," he said in the legislature last week, implying the doctors shouldn't complain about their high pay. "We are looking for the co-operation of the medical society's members for merely 10 more months so that we can meet a common goal of restraint." [CBC News]

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1 comments:

  1. sharon2 June, 2009 8:21 AM

    The real question

    What is the carrot? What is the string? Who is dangling it?

    Something to think about:

    Q- What does New Brunswick have that anybody else wants? ( the string)

    A-
    1. lower housing costs would attract the baby boomers
    2. uranium

    Q- what is the historical action taken by mining companies seeking development to win public support? (the carrot)

    A- fund health services

    Q- what makes you eat the carrot?

    A- hunger

    Summary

    It is a mistake for "governors" to avoid transparency while appearing to demonstrate accountability
    Governors hold the strings.

    If I was a "snowbird" I would far prefer spending my summers in New Brunswick ... than my winters in Florida.

    If I was living in New Brunswick I would ask why "new communitites" are not being developed away from the "mining interests.
    Certainly this has happened before (when thriving railway centers died people migrated both to them when they prospered...and away when they were not )

    You might say..what does this have to do with the manipulation of "key influencers" in the society ( e.g. physicians)

    A -everything.

    The real question: Can you apply your influence beyond personal gain, beyond, career plans ,beyond provincial barriers........ and into the real" paradigm shift" required in your "profession".
    Apart from what you want for yourself... what do your patients/client/society want/expect from you?

    Whatever you are hungry "for"... will determine which " carrot" you swallow.

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