Saturday, August 28, 2010

Province, psychiatrists sign two-year contract


An article published in today's edition of The Chronicle Herald:
Specialists to get $147.99 an hour

By DAVID JACKSON, Provincial Reporter

Halifax-area psychiatrists have reached a new funding deal with the Health Department, one the government hopes will help keep the specialists in Nova Scotia.

The province just signed off on the two-year deal, called an academic funding plan, this month. It will help ensure that doctors are actually getting paid for the hours they work, said Victoria Goldring, director of physician services for the Health Department.

Psychiatrists had complained that they were working a combined 20,000 hours more a year than what the previous contract would pay them for, she said.

Goldring said the new contract focuses on hours of service, for both clinical work and teaching. It says the department will cover 156,000 hours a year, with 80 per cent for clinical work and 20 per cent for teaching, research and administration.

That number of hours is the equivalent of 75 doctors working 40 hours a week for the 52 weeks in a year.

The hourly rate increases to $147.99, a 2.9 per cent increase from $143.78. The ballpark salary for a psychiatrist, depending on whether they’re a full professor and other factors, is about $300,000 [per year], Goldring said.

The deal adds about $3 million to the $20-million budget under the previous interim agreement.

Goldring said the new agreement would cover up to 75 psychiatrists, but they are currently several doctors short of a full complement. They work at the Queen Elizabeth II Health Sciences Centre and the IWK Health Centre and teach at Dalhousie University.

She said recruiting and retaining psychiatrists, who are in demand across the country, was top of mind during contract negotiations. She said the province aimed for the new deal to put psychiatrists’ pay here in the middle of the pack nationally.

"They are now at a more competitive rate compared to their counterparts across the country," Goldring said.

"There are shortages of psychiatrists all across the country, but this will help in providing a bit of stability to their numbers here."

A spokesperson for the psychiatrists could not be reached Friday.

Last November, they had threatened to withhold services from the new mental health court after they said the province missed an Oct. 31 deadline for a new deal.

It wasn’t clear Friday whether they had followed through.

The psychiatrists’ last contract expired in 2007, but there was an interim agreement to 2009. This new deal is effective from April 1, 2009 to March 31, 2011.

(djackson@herald.ca)

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