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Health authorities aim to block walkout by anesthetists

Staff operate at Toronto General Hospital in Toronto, Ont. Feb. 13, 2012. Two major Vancouver hospitals cancelled elective heart surgeries this week in response to the countrywide drug shortage.

Kevin Van Paassen/The Globe and Mail/Kevin Van Paassen/The Globe and Mail

Lawyers for the province's health authorities are going to court to block a walkout next week by B.C. anesthetists.

Lawyer Penny Washington, acting for the province's health authorities, outlined the plan Monday as she released a letter threatening suspension of practice privileges for specialists who walk off the job.

The letter is being circulated to anesthetists, who are being asked to commit by 5 p.m. Tuesday not to walk out.

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The letters, said Ms. Washington, will inform the legal action by providing a sense of how many specialists may follow through with the walkout being engineered by the B.C. Anesthesiologists Society.

"Our client does not consider it appropriate to use patients and their well being as a tool to leverage a demand for compensation," said the letter drafted by Ms. Washington of the law firm Bull Housser.

Anesthetists have been threatening to withdraw their services if they don't get a better deal in contract talks with the province. Through the B.C Anesthesiologists Society, the specialists have suggested they are underpaid.

In response Monday, Dr. Jeff Rains, the society president, decried what he called "bullying tactics" by the health authorities and government and said the society would be consulting its lawyers to decide how to respond.

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About the Author
B.C. reporter

Ian Bailey is a Vancouver-based reporter for The Globe and Mail.  He covers politics and general news. Prior to arriving at The Globe and Mail, he reported from Toronto and St. John’s for The Canadian Press.  He has also covered British Columbia for CP, The National Post and The Province. More

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