Doctors won't accept lower fees for Medical Services Plan duties, according to B.C. Medical Association president Dr. Shelley Ross, despite calls in Tuesday's provincial budget to cut costs.
"It's awfully hard to claw back fees," Ross said Wednesday during a visit to Prince George. "Perhaps the increase wouldn't be as much as we hoped, but to claw back - it just sets the wrong tone."
The budget doesn't allow much room for growth as the government emphasized clamping down on spending in order to present a balanced fiscal plan. That could mean a tough negotiation with physicians, who are in the first year of a four-year agreement.
Ross said it's typical to re-open the contract at the midway point to look at fees and the medical association is ready to have those talks later this year. Rather than cutting the amount of money doctors receive, she said lab reform is one way to find cost savings and there could be others.
"I think when we work collaboratively we can see where we can see where we can create efficiencies," she said.
Last year, the Ontario government tried to cut the fees paid for some services to doctors in that province, but the plan was scrapped after opposition from doctors. Eventually a compromise was found, which led to some cost savings without cutting fees.
Ross said the provincial government can't unilaterally cut the fees paid to doctors like in Ontario because the B.C. process mandates that any disputes must go through the medical services commission.
"We've got to provide the services and the population keeps growing," she said.
The medical association and the province work together on a handful of programs, including providing locum coverage for rural doctors.
"We want to keep all of these programs going, so there's going to have to be some collaboration on how we provide those services if there's not going to be enough money," Ross said. "It's going to be challenging."
De Jong said even with the belt tightening, the level of medical service offered in the province won't decline.
"The thing about health care is you can always spend more money," he told the Canadian Press. "This notion that the only way to affect positive outcomes in health care is by spending more than anyone else, surely that's been proven over and over to be false."