REGINA -- Saskatchewan family doctors say they are disappointed that the government won't be renewing their contract to address the COVID-19 pandemic.

In a letter, brought forward Friday by the NDP Official Opposition, the doctors wrote they wished they were consulted when the Saskatchewan Health Authority decided not to extend the contract.

“It was disheartening to learn that SMA (Saskatchewan Medical Association) was left out of the decision-making process,” stated the letter, which was written by Dr. Carla Holinaty, the SMA family practice board chair, and Dr. Stan Oleksinski, the SMA family practice board president.

The NDP questioned the government about the contract, saying the decision to not extend them puts healthcare at risk, especially in rural areas.

“The Sask. Party needs to stop governing by cuts and by stealth, and actually sit down with healthcare professionals about how to keep people safe while making them well,” said NDP Health Critic Vicki Mowat, in the news release.

The NDP and the family doctors said the Saskatchewan Health Authority chose to cancel the contract, but the government disagrees with that claim.

Health Minister Jim Reiter told reporters the pandemic contract with doctors was always set to expire on June 30.

He said doctors signed the agreement knowing it would end by that date.

“The understanding was this was always temporary,” Reiter said.

The contract provided doctors with income stability and allowed them be deployed throughout the province should some areas see intense outbreaks of COVID-19.

Reiter said should a second wave of the virus impact the province, the government will have discussions with the provincial medical association about creating a similar agreement.

Still, some doctors are displeased.

In the NDP news release, Dr. Stephanie Nyberg of Melfort said the decision puts the quality of rural healthcare at risk.

“I’m most concerned about my patients and how the cancellation of this contract without any plan to support the safe reopening of clinics will impact them,” Nyberg said in the release. “It leaves offices like mine facing a significant burden as we work to reopen safely, and frankly makes it harder for family doctors to practice in rural Saskatchewan."