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NB doctors get countrywide support

For the third time in less than a year, the presidents of the CMA and all 12 of the provincial and territorial medical associations that form it have joined forces to challenge attempts by provincial governments to arbitrarily impose new rules on physicians.

The latest response came in a blunt May 1 letter to Premier David Alward of New Brunswick, which was signed by all 13 presidents and by Dr. Suzanne Strasberg, who chairs the Presidents Forum that brings these leaders together for regular meetings. The open letter received heavy coverage in the province's media outlets.

"Breaking a signed agreement with your doctors sends an ominous message that you believe you can proceed to make health care decisions without consulting the physicians who deliver the care," the letter, written in support of the New Brunswick Medical Society (NBMS), stated. "That is bad medicine. Global experience shows that successful system change has required the support of the medical community."

A year earlier, a letter in support of the Ontario Medical Association (OMA) that was sent to then Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty was just as stern. "Your efforts to convince the premiers from other provinces to adopt a broken model that excludes true collaboration are wrong-headed," that May 16, 2012, letter stated.

The third letter was sent to Alberta Premier Alison Redford Nov. 20, 2012, in support of the Alberta Medical Association (AMA). "The manner in which your government has imposed conditions on physicians without a true opportunity to build consensus is not acceptable," it said.

The OMA subsequently reached a negotiated settlement, and by early May a similar outcome appeared close in Alberta. The NBMS, meanwhile, announced April 24 that it would go to court to challenge medicare cuts by the Alward government.

"Our problems are long term and systemic," said NBMS President Robert Desjardins. "They're caused by unhealthy lifestyles, population aging and the continued export of young people. How can the government think that a two-year cap on services and a broken promise to doctors are fixes to those problems?"

CMA President Anna Reid described the letters as a sign of "unprecedented unity" within the medical profession. "The goal in recent years has been to have all 13 of our associations speaking with one voice when action is needed," Reid said. "Action was needed in all three of these cases, and I think we spoke pretty loudly."

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