Implementing New, Rigorous Testing Standards Will Save Money without Costing Lives, Say Ontario's Cardiologists

Ontario Association of Cardiologists call on the McGuinty government to abandon punitive new OHIP rules and accept their proposal

PETERBOROUGH, ON, June 6, 2012 /CNW/ - The current fiscal situation in Ontario has forced government to look at different ways to control health spending. On May 7th the government enacted regulations that drastically change the OHIP fee structure for necessary diagnostic testing.  The government intends to implement the changes by July 1st, 2012.  The Ontario Association of Cardiologists (OAC) warns that if these changes are implemented, lives will be lost.

Today, the OAC launches a new website (www.ontarioheartdoctors.ca) in an effort to educate the general public and all members of the Ontario government about this critical health care issue.

"Rapid access to high quality cardiology care saves lives," said Dr. Bill Hughes, President of the OAC. "Over the past 20 years, through the efforts of the Cardiac Care Network of Ontario (CCN), we have seen dramatic improvements in patient access to care, in both small and large communities across the province. If the regulations are enforced as of July 1st, the McGuinty government will destroy many of the significant gains we have made. There will be an immediate increase in cardiac death and disability."

In an effort to curb health care spending, the McGuinty government's proposal of May 7th, 2012 aims to reduce growth in diagnostic testing.  Their solution was to arbitrarily impose new rules, taking effect July 1st, 2012 (retroactive to April 1st), that cut fees in half for tests performed by the same physician who referred the patient (self-referral) for the test.

"While the OAC is opposed to the McGuinty government's new fee structure in its entirety, we are particularly concerned about the new definition of self-referral and its broad reaching implications on access to quality cardiac patient care," said Dr. Hughes. "This new fee structure will make it impossible for cardiologists to follow the Canadian and International scientific guidelines that direct the practice of evidence-based medicine. Cardiologists will not tolerate being forced to provide substandard care. The consequences of unnecessary death and disability will rest solely on the shoulders of Premier McGuinty."

In the case of the community cardiology office, these punitive new OHIP rules will have far-reaching ramifications for both the patient and the cardiac specialist.  The technical fees for diagnostic services were set, in consultation with government, based on the cost of providing the service.  Government is well aware that cutting these fees in half will make it impossible to provide the service.  This will necessitate patients having to go elsewhere for the testing before returning for re-evaluation by the cardiologist who will then not have access to all of the data required.

Net result:  Decreased access to cardiac care and longer wait times for patients (cardiac patients do not have the luxury of time).  There will be higher billings to OHIP because patients that could have been cared for on the same day will have to return for another assessment at a later date.  Clearly, this is contrary to Premier McGuinty's position on "not spending the same dollar twice." Immediately upon implementation, cardiac death and disability will increase.

Ontario cardiologists recognize and acknowledge that ensuring each test is done for appropriate reasons is a high priority for doctors, government, patients, and taxpayers.  It is for this reason, on May 29th, 2012, the Ontario Association of Cardiologists met with several senior Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care officials, and presented a solution.  Our solution will ensure that tests, such as echocardiography, performed to diagnose, treat and manage a patient's condition are done appropriately.

"We are committed to ensuring that cardiac diagnostics are done on the right patient, for the right reasons, by the right people, at the right time," confirmed Dr. Hughes.  For this reason the OAC has asked government to immediately implement the Cardiac Care Network document Standards for the Provision of Echocardiography in Ontario.  The OAC estimates millions can be saved in this one area alone.

"At our meeting last week with the government we emphasized that time was running very short to save cardiac care in Ontario," said Dr. Hughes.  "Initially we were optimistic that a partnership was developing, but now, more than a week has passed with no official response. All we are hearing from the Ministry is that they are looking at ways to implement the 50 per cent fee reductions.  Since the Minister of Health and Long-Term Care is insistent on proceeding with these fee cuts, we must now warn the public that access to high quality cardiac diagnostics, through their cardiologist's offices and community based clinics, will no longer be feasible."

The OAC urges government to immediately declare that it will not implement the self-referral payment deductions, and that it will begin meaningful negotiations with the Ontario Medical Association.  We are confident that, should real negotiations begin, we can find ways to achieve significant savings that do not compromise patient care and safety.  The government plan is dangerous.  It must be stopped.

For more information and to send a letter to your Member of Provincial Parliament asking them work with the OAC and the OMA on a plan that will not jeopardize access to quality patient care, please visit www.ontarioheartdoctors.ca.

SOURCE Ontario Association of Cardiologists

For further information:

Dara Willis Communications
416-836-9272
Dara.willis2@gmail.com

Ontario Association of Cardiologists
327 Charlotte Street, Peterborough ON
705-775-0770 office
admin@ontac.ca

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