A surgical team at work in Surrey Memorial Hospital.

Anesthesia docs drop threat to delay surgeries

Group could still return to court in bid to authorize job action

Anesthesiologists who had threatened to partially withdraw service this month have struck a truce with the provincial government that ends any risk of elective surgery delays for now.

The two sides were to be in B.C. Supreme Court starting today (April 18) to argue whether a March 30 interim injunction blocking job action should be made permanent.

But on Monday the B.C. Anesthesiologists Society (BCAS) and the health authorities agreed to indefinitely adjourn the court date while efforts continue to resolve the society’s grievances.

“Job action is not something we take lightly,” society president Dr. Jeff Rains said.

“We do not want to put patients in the middle of this dispute.”

The province had warned that any anesthesiologists who took job action could be found in breach of their contracts and sued for extra costs resulting from surgical delays.

Anesthesiologists with the BCAS want to bargain separately, rather than under the umbrella of the B.C. Medical Association, which they say does not represent their interests.

The BCAS is now directly appealing to a conciliator named to Physician Master Agreement negotiations to hear its concerns.

“It was our feeling that we shouldn’t be doing any service reductions while we were waiting for an answer from him,” Rains said.

He said he is now concerned the BCMA and province are working to bar the BCAS from the conciliation process, adding job action could be pursued again if that’s the case.

“That would certainly be an option that we could entertain,” Rains said.

The province or the BCAS can terminate the adjournment on 48 hours notice and return to court to argue whether the injunction should stand.

The BCAS contends a shortage of operating room staff, including anesthesiologists, kept 10,000 surgeries from being performed last year, the largest proportion of them in the Fraser Health region.

Rains said 3,500 more surgeries could have been performed last year in Surrey alone – at Surrey Memorial Hospital and the Jim Pattison outpatient hospital – if operating rooms had not been shut down for extended periods due to a lack of medical staff.

The BCAS argues higher pay and more aid for its members would attract more anethesiologists to B.C.

The province says anesthesiologists make about $340,000 a year with almost none of the overhead expenses of other doctors, whose pay has not risen as fast.

A spokesman for the health authorities said he was hopeful the BCAS and BCMA could come to a common understanding and rejoin the existing negotiation process.

Just Posted

UPDATE: Wind warning has ended for Metro Vancouver

More than 34,000 BC Hydro customers in the dark on Sunday morning in the Lower Mainland and Sunshine Coast

Downtown Mission: Ready to revitalize

With the bidding process underway, construction could start by mid-March

Guilty plea issued in case where man, 86, was assaulted and robbed

Hughie Stump pleads guilty to break-and-enter in relation to Abbotsford incident

WIND WARNING: Metro Vancouver expecting 100 km/h gusts Saturday night

Environment Canada issues warns of possibly dangerous conditions

Fraser Health asking taxpayers for millions more in health care capital funding

Health authority wants Fraser Valley taxpayers to triple annual contribution to $5.75 million

REPLAY: B.C. this week in video

In case you missed it, here’s a look at replay-worthy highlights from across the province this week

Philadelphia Eagles headed to Super Bowl

After routing the Minnesota Vikings 38-7, they will face Tom Brady and the New England Patriots

Heavy snowfall closes Mount Washington on Vancouver Island

Road to ski resort deemed unsafe, vehicles buried under more than three feet of snow

VIDEO: Dramatic video shows return of rescued B.C. snowboarders

Two snowboarders were rescued near Rossland, B.C. on Sunday after being lost overnight.

Tom Brady leads Patriots back to Super Bowl, top Jaguars 24-20

New England to face winner of Sunday night’s game between Minnesota and Philadelphia on Feb. 4

Coquihalla drivers prepare for snow

Wintry conditions persist, with snow warnings for Coquihalla

Liberals quietly tap experts to write new paternity leave rules

Ideas include creating an entirely new leave benefit similar to one that exists in Quebec

Insurers say Canadian weather getting hotter, wetter and weirder

Average number of days with heavy rain or snow across Canada has been outside norm since spring 2013

Final phase of MDMA-assisted psychotherapy trials to kick off in B.C.

Doctors hope to get psychedelic-assisted psychotherapy legalized in Canada and the U.S. by 2021

Most Read