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I Love Being A Doctor, But Canada Doesn't Love Me

I'm not looking for a pat on the back or a thank you. But I'm hurt by the things I read and hear said about doctors.

09/13/2017 12:02 EDT | Updated 09/13/2017 15:55 EDT
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I love my job. Anyone who knows me, knows that I do, and that I feel personally responsible for the health of each one of my patients. My staff know that I will gladly squeeze in the baby with the fever, the couple who just had a fender-bender, the teenager who feels suicidal, and when the five-minute medication refill turns into a 40-minute counselling session because the patient has been having an affair for 25 years and thinks they may have contracted HIV, or the IV drug user comes in with an abscess having not eaten in two days. I sit, and I listen, and I help if I can.

I call people with results on the weekends, and do home visits for new moms having trouble with breastfeeding on holidays, to the detriment of my relationship with my husband, and coming home to my kids saying, "I drew a picture of me being sad — I'm sad because you're not here."

But I love my job. What I can't understand, though, is why so many people seem to hate me?

I'm not alone in my dedication and passion for keeping my patients safe and healthy. From a female colleague who stays late on her ER shift to see my patient with a complicated history of sexual abuse because she knows only male physicians are working the next shift, to a surgeon who operates from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. without eating or going to the bathroom, and is back the next morning to talk with me about my patient in hospital to a specialist in a rural area who is on call. Every. Single. Day. Because, well, there isn't anyone else in the area who can do what they do.

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There are many other articles that talk about how the proposed tax changes to small businesses will affect doctors, so check out this, this, this, or this if you'd like to know the details. But I want to talk more broadly about why this is a big deal and why I'm upset about it.

When I go to my doctor and get a prescription, there's no drug plan that covers me. When I get the flu, I don't take a sick day, and if I do, I don't get paid, but I still have to pay my clinic staff, my cleaners, the hydro, etc... If I have a baby, I have no paid maternity leave. If I break my leg, I have no coverage for physiotherapy.

Labour laws don't apply to me

There is no maximum number of work hours, no overtime, no minimum wage, no minimum time between shifts, and more. I will finally start being paid a doctor's wages when I start working independently at age ~30 (and if I'm a surgeon, make that at least age 35). I will spend the first five-10 years of my career paying off my $200,000 medical school loans (tuition alone is now $25,000/year, four-year program). And I'll spend the next 20 years trying to save for my retirement. Because when I retire, I have no pension.

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I love my job. But it's really starting to feel like Canada doesn't like me. I'm called greedy, a tax cheat, overpaid, and even nursing colleagues that I work with day in and day out seem to think that I shouldn't get the protection that the current small business tax laws provide. The right to incorporate was given to doctors to avoid increasing our pay. That's right — our pay has not increased, not even to keep up with inflation. Let's say one day you're at work and your boss says, "Listen, we are having a tough quarter and we can't give you a raise this year. Instead, we are going to pay into your pension so that you can still retire on time."

You'd think: "Well, I really love my job and I know they are trying to make things work, so OK, that's fine."

Then, the next year the boss says: "Hey, remember that pension we were talking about? Actually, we need that money too, so you're not getting a raise again and there's no pension for you either."

I'm not in this for the money. I love my job. But right now, I'm loving it significantly less.

What would you do? Quit? Strike? If I quit, people die. If I strike, people die.

I'm not in this for the money. I love my job. But right now, I'm loving it significantly less. I'm feeling a little less inclined to miss my kid's soccer game to counsel the mom who was just diagnosed with breast cancer, to miss giving my kids a kiss goodnight because another person's kid fell out of a tree and broke their leg, or to cancel the date night with my husband for the third time in a row because I'm worried my last patient of the day is having a heart attack and have to keep them stable until EMS arrives.

I'm not looking for a pat on the back or a thank you. But I'm hurt by the things I read and hear said about Ontario's doctors. Yes, as in all professions, some aren't in it for the right reasons, but the vast majority are running themselves ragged caring for you.

Dear Justin Trudeau, Kathleen Wynne and the Liberals — I will gladly give up my corporation and any tax advantages I may have, if I will then be treated like the rest of the workforce (especially government employees) — you pay for my clinic, and I show up to work every day with set hours, overtime pay, sick days, vacation, benefits, and pension.

Truth is, you can't afford that. But you know what, with these tax changes, neither can we.

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