By Dr. Douglas Crawford – Barrie
(Re: ‘Ontario is a great place to practise medicine’ in the May 15 edition of the Examiner)
Deb Matthews, minister of health and long-term care, states that Ontario is a great place to practise medicine and that we physicians are being subjected to a two-year wage freeze. She must have a different understanding of wage freeze than I have.
As one of Barrie’s anesthesiologists, the minister has imposed a wage cut on my specialty — which for my practice in Barrie will be a cut of around 10%.
After a sham negotiation in which the government position did not change one inch, the government decreed a fee schedule for Ontario’s physicians which will involve increasing cuts to doctors’ fees over four years.
The government is not negotiating with the Ontario Medical Association and has no plans for a contract with doctors for four years. This year, the ministry will take 3.4% from our fees (the amount varies by specialty), increasing to 11.7% in 2015.
As well, the 1,100 new physicians she thinks will come to Ontario have to be paid out of the total pool of funds paid to doctors.
Imagine what you would think if your employer told you it was going to increase the workforce by 5% but the total paid to all employees would remain the same — meaning your wages would have to go down to pay for the newcomers.
The minister has stated some doctors have benefited from technological innovations, making them able to do procedures much more quickly.
This is true in a few cases, but not in most.
In anesthesiology, our innovations have resulted in vastly improved patient safety, as well as more comfortable patients who recover faster. In the 1950s, a US professor of anesthesia stated that anesthesia should not be offered to anyone over 50 because it was so risky. We now are able to take care of very complex and sick patients of any age, getting them safely through complex surgeries.
As a baby boomer entering the phase of life when I will need medical care, the government
of Premier Dalton McGuinty’s roughshod dictates to doctors makes me concerned that the care will not be there for me.
Young doctors starting up with large debts from their 10 to 16 years of education will no longer want to practise in Ontario. The uncertainty of what they will earn and that it may be altered at any time will make them look elsewhere.
I receive two offers a month to work in places outside Ontario, so the young doctors will receive even more offers. Ms. Matthews has added 3,400 new doctors up to now but this has suddenly become much more difficult.
I, like all Ontario doctors, am painfully aware that Ontario’s finances have been mismanaged and that anyone receiving money from the government must be part of the solution.
Dictating terms and refusing to negotiate a contract with doctors is not the way to sustain excellent medical care for Ontarians. Ms. Matthews and Mr. McGuinty must stop bullying doctors, return to the negotiating table and arrive at a contract so we can all move forward