Ontario’s Premier Has Gone After Its Doctors

The Ontario Medical Association is demanding that Doug Ford, who was elected Premier of Ontario on June 7, publicly promise to not cut health care funding or to make providers’ fees “uncompetitive.” This, as fellow Health Editor, Carla Cohen, explained in a report last month, is an incredible issue of concern:

Earlier this year, Ontario ranked first in the country for hospital waiting times. This represented an improvement over the previous year, though still short of where the opposition Liberals expected Ontario to be. In May, The Canadian Medical Association (CMA) released the results of its annual survey on physician fees. The survey, which is conducted every three years, asked Ontario physicians the “complex questions of health services, fees and services.” It showed that Ontario doctors were paid on average $176 per month per patient last year — a $91 decrease over the previous year. OMA President Dr. Theresa Tam says this decrease was “clearly not sustainable.” The survey also indicated that 86 percent of physicians did not agree with provisions in the last health care accord which stipulated “they should be paid the same rates as in 2012, or the lowest amount allowed by the law, whichever is higher.” This came at a time when Ontario’s health care system was already operating below a capacity of its human resources. It also had an almost $300 million deficit. “A major factor in the current financial mess is the fact that the current accord is operating below capacity for many of the services covered by the agreement. And all Ontarians are paying.” The CMA points out that doctors in other provinces pay more to practice medicine while working fewer hours. This is because “Ontario’s physicians’ most important responsibility is to their patients” and “the current operating climate demands that Ontario’s health care system work harder to adequately serve Ontarians.” [Source: CHOP]

Since the new government came to power, the problems have only gotten worse for health care providers, especially the doctors who treat Ontario’s most vulnerable. But for Ford, this isn’t a surprise:

Doug Ford wants more money? He wants a bigger budget for his power-grab. For the 30 years of the Doug Ford era, the working majority of the provincial cabinet has more money than it can spend.

This is not to say that the financial sacrifices made by the Province were not problematic, but the latest round of cuts has been in areas such as home and community care, which have the greatest burden in providing care to seniors and the most-affected people by these cuts are those who cannot afford to see a doctor.

The Ministry of Health is also planning to take away medicare’s ability to negotiate with doctors for their services and has signed an agreement with Advanced Education that allows the province to impose new benchmarks on academic hospitals, which will most certainly include tuition increases.

As Amanda Guest of the CMA wrote, “If Canadians are to continue to receive the quality of health care that they need, we need our government to address challenges, not undermine them.” On Friday, that job was left at the “ball” when the province rushed through legislation to cut doctor fees and reshape health care, before cancelling it days later. As Maggie Koerth-Baker wrote in this space, it’s hard to imagine a situation where the magnitude of this debacle would be excusable.

“In the end, I think, we will learn that this government simply does not understand how, as citizens, Ontarians and as taxpayers, we pay for our health care system. This cuts-first approach has been going on for far too long.”

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