Professional Association of Residents of Alberta

Professional Association of Residents of Alberta

October 06, 2005 11:02 ET

PARA: Alberta Government Turns Its Back on Resident Physicians

CALGARY, ALBERTA--(CCNMatthews - Oct. 6, 2005) - The Professional Association of Residents of Alberta (PARA), which represents Alberta's 1200 resident doctors, has been trying to negotiate a new contract since their last agreement expired over 16 months ago. The government, for its part, has not even provided an opening proposal.

"By every standard, they have failed to bargain in good faith," claims Dr. Ryan Wright, Chair of PARA's negotiating team. "It's not that we can't find a compromise. They simply have provided nothing to compromise with."

In the meantime under their expired contract, resident doctors in Alberta currently work on-call shifts in excess of 28 hours. These extended shifts are scheduled as often as every third day, a frequency that exceeds limitations in almost every other province. A recent survey of Alberta residents showed the average resident works 77 hours per week with 35% of residents working 90 hours per week or more.

Addressing such extremes in work hours and conditions is a top priority for the residents' negotiating team. "Numerous recent studies have proven that prolonged periods of sleeplessness pose risks to patient and resident safety," says Dr. Roona Sinha, PARA President. "The research is clear - being awake for so long results not only in medical errors, but in motor vehicle accidents, pregnancy complications, and depression among residents. The government's unwillingness to come to the negotiating table prepared to meaningfully address these issues shows that they've turned their back on resident doctors and patients in this province."

It is quite clear that the government's treatment of resident doctors has had consequences in the recruitment of new medical school graduates to training programs in Alberta as well. For the past three years, the University of Alberta has fared worst in Canada at attracting trainees to its Family Medicine program. "There have been more unfilled positions in Edmonton than anywhere else," says Dr. Wright, a recent graduate of the program. "It seems that the government's promises to invest in the future by attracting the best and the brightest to Alberta do not apply to our new Family Physicians." While health care professionals like nurses and pharmacists in this province are the highest paid in Canada, the salary for a resident in Family Medicine in Alberta currently ranks in the bottom 3 across the country.

Resident doctors feel that their contribution to patient care is not recognized or appreciated by the provincial government. Over the past six months, the government has offered and settled contracts with health care professionals belonging to the Alberta Union of Public Employees, the United Nurses of Alberta, and the Health Sciences Association of Alberta even though their agreements expired a year later than the residents' last agreement. "The neglect of residents reinforces that new physicians are not a priority for this government," warns Dr. Wright. "Such unfair actions are making Alberta an uninviting place for new doctors to train. Unless the government is prepared to come to the table and bargain in good faith, retention and recruitment of our young doctors will only get worse."

The PARA Backgrounder can be found on the CCNMatthews website:

Contact Information

  • PARA
    Sarah Thomas
    Executive Director
    (780) 432-1749