Ontario government's plan to cut over $1 billion from OHIP will mean longer wait times and more people without a doctor
TORONTO, April 24, 2012 /CNW/ - Negotiations with Ontario's doctors stalled today as the government rejected an offer to continue negotiating with the assistance of a Conciliator and indicated they were proceeding to impose cuts to programs and physician fees. Dr. Stewart Kennedy, President of the Ontario Medical Association (OMA), expressed his disappointment that the government has repeatedly rejected the doctors' offer of a 2 year freeze on fees, savings of $250 million, and a firm agreement to find further savings. Dr. Kennedy warned that cuts to programs would hurt the province's ability to retain the some 700 new physicians that will begin practicing this year, and put recent improvements to wait times and health at risk.
The OMA stated the government's scheme would eliminate the programs and incentives that have increased access to services and enhanced the level of patient care in recent years. Specifically, the government is threatening to:
- Cut the program that has helped over 2.1 million more patients find a doctor;
- Cut the program that has increased the number of hours worked by doctors on weekends and evenings; and
- Cut funding for the services that doctors provide to their elderly patients and patients with chronic disease.
The OMA's request for the government to return to the table to continue negotiations with the assistance of an independent third party Conciliator to help the parties resolve their differences was also rejected outright. The OMA's request comes after weeks of threats from government to unilaterally impose these cuts on Ontario's more than 25,000 practicing physicians. Dr. Kennedy outlined the current competition for medical graduates, and spoke to the negative consequences that fee cuts and unilateral actions would have on the province's ability to recruit and retain physicians in Ontario. He noted that the government will not provide any new funding to compensate the 700 new physicians that will begin practicing this year and that might mean they choose other jurisdictions where they would be welcomed, rather than attacked and not supported.
The government's scheme to impose cuts to fees and programs of over $1 billion will make it harder to recruit and retain doctors. Recognizing the growing and ageing population, this will mean longer wait times for most services. It will also mean that patients in Ontario who still don't have a family doctor will either wait longer to find one or won't be able to find one at all.
"It is frustrating that the government will negotiate a deal to avoid an election, but they aren't willing to negotiate a reasonable agreement with Ontario's doctors about the future of our health care system. Their message from the outset has been, '…Take a billion dollars in fee cuts - or else.' This is not negotiating in good faith, and sends the wrong message to our new graduates, and is not respectful of the hard work of our doctors."
"The priority for Ontario's doctors is to protect the improvements we've made to patient care. Yet we are on the verge of reversing course and unraveling our system of care for patients. We have a history of working with the government and we are optimistic that a deal can be reached that is in the interests of patients, physicians and recognizes the province's fiscal situation. "
Stewart Kennedy, MD
Ontario Medical Association
Progress to improve health care in the last 8 years:
- 2.1 million more patients now have a doctor, who didn't in 2003.
- 40% more doctors are working evenings and weekends.
- Wait times in Ontario are some of the lowest in the country.
- 8 million patients now have an electronic medical record being managed by 8500 doctors.
Meeting the needs of a growing and ageing population:
- The number of doctors in Ontario will grow by 2.7% (700 annually) over the next four years;
- Ontario's population will grow to over 14 million by 2016 (170,000 persons per year) and the number of people over the age of 65 will increase by approximately 80,000 per year); and
- The number of services a patient requires for care has increased at an average rate of 3.7% annually over the last five years and is unlikely to drop.
Competing with other jurisdictions for physicians:
- The U.S. is projecting a shortage of 90,000 doctors by 2015.
- The Canadian Institute for Health Information ranks Ontario's fee schedule as 7th in the country.
- Alberta doctors received a 5% increase to fees this year and next year;
- Manitoba doctors will receive over 10% over the next three years; and
- Saskatchewan doctors will receive approximately a 4% increase this coming year.
Details of the OMA's offer to government that was rejected:
- 0% increase on fees for 2 years, effective April 1st, 2012.
- $250 million in direct savings to the OHIP budget over the next 2 years, or the equivalent of a 2.5% discount to every doctor in Ontario.
- A renewed process to find additional, evidence-based savings that do not negatively impact patient care, which previously has helped identify more than $300 million in savings.
For further information: