December 14, 2022
I am writing to advise you that Doctors Manitoba has initiated negotiations with the provincial government for our next Master Agreement. While our current Master Agreement does not expire until March 2023, we have already started the process given the breadth and depth of issues that must be resolved through negotiating a new Agreement.
Yesterday, I met with Premier Heather Stefanson and Health Minister Audrey Gordon, along with Past President Dr. Kristjan Thompson and President-Elect Dr. Michael Boroditsky. While the many details of any agreement are worked on by the negotiators from both sides, this meeting has become an important tradition to kick off negotiations allowing both parties to outline our priorities and set a positive tone.
I reinforced with the Premier and Minister that we are currently in a truly unprecedented and grave situation that requires a unique approach.
On the one hand, this round of negotiations must consider complex new innovative approaches to physician support and remuneration, as we are seeing in other provinces, as well as address a large accumulation of smaller issues that need a resolution.
On the other hand, immediate action is needed to address urgent issues. The health system is in crisis. We have a record high physician shortage in Manitoba. Physician distress and burnout are at record highs as the profession tries to crawl out of the pandemic with inadequate support and resources. These issues simply cannot wait for the many months it could take to negotiate a new Master Agreement.
Our recommendation to the government is to pursue two lanes at the same time. First, the fast-track lane to address urgent and short-term issues, including through the health human resource action plan the government announced last month. Second, the traditional Master Agreement negotiations lane that allows for the thoughtful resolution of longer-term issues and innovations in physician practice and remuneration.
The last few years have been challenging and filled with uncertainty, to say the least. That’s why Doctors Manitoba is taking a new approach to negotiating our next Master Agreement. Of course, we are pursuing fair and competitive remuneration to recognize your dedicated service to Manitobans, and we are also pushing for improvements to how the health system treats physicians, your administrative burden, and the burnout crisis. We want to see a Master Agreement that supports the whole physician, including not only your economic well-being, but also your professional, physical and mental well-being too.
We have closely monitored increases in Ontario and prairie provinces, a benchmark that has served physicians here well for the last two decades. Recent agreements in those provinces have offered physicians 1-2% funding increases per year. Here in Manitoba, recent agreements for other public sector workers have averaged 1.4% per year. These numbers certainly do not put a spring in my step and do not come close to addressing the inflationary and work pressures physicians are facing right now. Our team is building the case using other rationale to press for the full support and resources you need to maintain your practice in Manitoba. This includes monitoring developments in other jurisdictions, including in BC, while also addressing the concerns of your patients, such as unreasonably long wait times and physician shortages.
I also want to thank you and your colleagues across the province. I sincerely appreciate the time so many physicians have taken to share their concerns and ideas through our surveys, working groups and recent Rural Health Summit. Your feedback is invaluable, along with the extensive research, jurisdictional monitoring and analysis our Doctors Manitoba team undertakes. It has led to a comprehensive set of proposals that aim to make Manitoba a preferred destination to practice medicine through fair, competitive remuneration and resources, and a health system that makes physicians feel supported, respected, and valued.
Finally, I want to emphasize how important it is to stay together, as a diverse group of physicians, through this process. Every corner of the medical profession needs more support and resources, from family medicine to medical and surgical specialties, from Winnipeg to rural and Northern Manitoba, from hospitals to community care. Doctors Manitoba is fighting for all of us, and we will all be best served by supporting each other in the weeks and months ahead.
I will provide updates to you in the weeks ahead, both on any quick-fix actions the government agrees to and on the Master Agreement negotiations. As always, please feel free to contact me at email@example.com with your feedback. You can contact our team for assistance at Doctors Manitoba at firstname.lastname@example.org.