The imposed contract for health care workers this week is a sign to get cracking for area doctors looking to renegotiate their June, 2000 contract.
Northern Medical Society secretary Dr. Bert Kelly says the society is already putting together a presentation for the health ministry with a view to extending their controversial deal.
The doctors’ $10 million recruitment package has been criticized by the B.C. Medical Association, who are in arbitration with provincial negotiators.
“The BCMA does not approve and has never approved of the PG agreement because that would mean other doctors could step outside their process,” says Dr. Kelly.
The College of Physicians and Surgeons fired a letter last month to doctors saying they disapproved of their separate contract negotiations.
Doctors in communities across B.C. are asking the government for the Prince George deal, which guaranteed signing bonuses and better on-call pay than most other areas of B.C.
“I don’t know how this government will react,” says Dr. Kelly. “The only people that are happy with it are Prince George physicians.”
The agreement expires March 31, 2002 and can be changed at that time only if both parties agree to changes. If they do not agree financial components of the deal will be suspended until such time as another deal is signed.
It’s responsible for bringing 14 physicians to PGRH so far. Many more doctors, he says, have expressed interest and are in the pipeline.
One of the doctors being recruited is the chief of plastic surgery from Pretoria, South Africa. Dr. Kelly says negotiations should be underway by at least January.
“But we would plan on being there a long time before that,” he says.
A key benefit to renewing the contract is the connection of a federally assisted Northern Medical Program at UNBC, which would establish the city as a medical training centre for rural doctors.
“A training centre definitely is the answer,” he says. “In order to have the government not take away the deal we need to establish the centre. It’s a simple, brilliant solution.”
The program concept was first announced as a long term solution to the rural doctors shortage in June, 2000 at a rally at the Prince George Multiplex.