Police, firefighters, paramedics and other provincial doctor associations all use binding interest arbitration to ensure that if there is ever an issue during negotiations, there is a built-in mechanism to keep the process fair -- for both sides. The one essential service missing from this list are Ontario's doctors.
So when Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne and Health Minister Eric Hoskins released a joint statement promising to look at binding arbitration to the Ontario Medical Association (OMA), physicians across Ontario were shocked -- and more than a little wary.
Minister of Health and Long-Term Care Eric Hoskins, June 24, 2014. (Photo: Aaron Harris/Reuters)
Negotiations between the OMA and the Liberal government fell apart in 2015. Usually when negotiations hit an impasse, it means lockout or walkout. Neither is a possibility for physicians, because when government and physicians fight, patients get caught in the crossfire. So binding arbitration exists to keep things peaceful and fair.
Instead, the government resorted to cuts and bizarre regulations. Funding cuts of seven to 30 per cent meant individual clinics had to cut services including in-office labs, flu shot clinics, staff and equipment upgrades to stay afloat. In some cases, clinics closed. Nonsense regulations made it impossible to start new family medicine practices. Nonsense laws like Bill 41 played an expensive game of musical chairs with bureaucracy.
Throw in the usual political shenanigans, bad-mouthing doctors in the media, fake contracts and failed negotiations arising from back-room dealings -- you have a recipe for distrust, acrimony and frustration. So it's been a while since doctors and government have had a normal relationship.
Canada scores last when it comes to waitlists, and it's only getting worse.
The Liberals want to talk. But is it genuine?
This will be the fourth go-around between doctors and government. With elections around the corner and bottom-of-the-barrel approval ratings, it's no surprise that the Liberal government is on a peace-keeping mission. Sooner or later, though, we all go to the doctor or the hospital; at that moment we become patients and not voters. At that moment we view health-care spending in a whole new light.
Like any sane person, I want a fair contract. But beyond that, I see a health-care system failing the very people who depend on it and the people who work in it. Call me crazy, but the doctor-government relationship must change. Government has to come to terms with the concept that looking after health-care workers means looking after patients when it comes to policy. We need a government playing ball instead of posturing on the sidelines.
The Liberals ignored patient, caregiver, physician and front-line worker input when drafting Bill 41, the Patients First Act. Three months in and LHINs are hiring new vice-presidents, funding bureaucracy instead of patient services. We as a population need to look into the not-so-distant future when we will need the health-care system that we are creating today.
(Photo: Shayne Ppl via Getty Images)
The Commonwealth report released yesterday showed the reality patients and doctors live on the front-lines: waitlists are spiraling out of control. Canada scores last when it comes to waitlists, and it's only getting worse. With 40 per cent of the Canadian population and one-third of all practicing physicians, Ontario is driving these statistics.
Talking to my colleagues, I see the people behind the statistics. Even in Toronto -- resource-rich Toronto -- doctors talk of seeing patients diagnosed with brain cancer waiting nine weeks for surgery or patients diagnosed with kidney cancer waiting two months for surgery. More and more, patients start a waitlist with a treatable medical condition only to reach the front of the line and discover that it's too late.
We need a grown-up conversation and genuine change.
Here's an example given by a student-doctor: a 40-year-old mom diagnosed with gallstones was slated for surgery. The first time her surgery was cancelled, it was because it was bumped by a cancer case. So she went back in line and waited. The second time her surgery was cancelled, it was because the operating room ran over-time. So she went back in line.
The third time her surgery was cancelled, it was because the hospital ran short of funding and had to postpone all non-life threatening cases to the following year. The next time the student-doctor saw this woman was in the ICU where she had been hospitalized with gallstone pancreatitis. She died a week later.
The health-care system is in crisis. The usual political stunts and theatre are getting old. We need a grown-up conversation and genuine change. I don't know which attitude the Liberal government will bring to the table. But I'm watching. We all are.
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Former President Theodore Roosevelt champions national health insurance as he unsuccessfully tries to ride his progressive Bull Moose Party back to the White House. (Photo by Topical Press Agency/Getty Images)
President Franklin D. Roosevelt favors creating national health insurance amid the Great Depression but decides to push for Social Security first. (Photo by Keystone/Getty Images)
Roosevelt establishes wage and price controls during World War II. Businesses can't attract workers with higher pay so they compete through added benefits, including health insurance, which grows into a workplace perk. (Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)
President Harry Truman calls on Congress to create a national insurance program for those who pay voluntary fees. The American Medical Association denounces the idea as "socialized medicine" and it goes nowhere. (Photo by Keystone/Getty Images)
John F. Kennedy makes health care a major campaign issue but as president can't get a plan for the elderly through Congress. (Photo by Keystone/Getty Images)
President Lyndon B. Johnson's legendary arm-twisting and a Congress dominated by his fellow Democrats lead to creation of two landmark government health programs: Medicare for the elderly and Medicaid for the poor. (AFP/AFP/Getty Images)
President Richard Nixon wants to require employers to cover their workers and create federal subsidies to help everyone else buy private insurance. The Watergate scandal intervenes. (Photo by Keystone/Getty Images)
President Jimmy Carter pushes a mandatory national health plan, but economic recession helps push it aside. (Photo by Central Press/Getty Images)
President Ronald Reagan signs COBRA, a requirement that employers let former workers stay on the company health plan for 18 months after leaving a job, with workers bearing the cost. (MIKE SARGENT/AFP/Getty Images)
Congress expands Medicare by adding a prescription drug benefit and catastrophic care coverage. It doesn't last long. Barraged by protests from older Americans upset about paying a tax to finance the additional coverage, Congress repeals the law the next year. (TIM SLOAN/AFP/Getty Images)
President Bill Clinton puts first lady Hillary Rodham Clinton in charge of developing what becomes a 1,300-page plan for universal coverage. It requires businesses to cover their workers and mandates that everyone have health insurance. The plan meets Republican opposition, divides Democrats and comes under a firestorm of lobbying from businesses and the health care industry. It dies in the Senate. (PAUL J. RICHARDS/AFP/Getty Images)
Clinton signs bipartisan legislation creating a state-federal program to provide coverage for millions of children in families of modest means whose incomes are too high to qualify for Medicaid. (JAMAL A. WILSON/AFP/Getty Images)
President George W. Bush persuades Congress to add prescription drug coverage to Medicare in a major expansion of the program for older people. (STEPHEN JAFFE/AFP/Getty Images)
Hillary Rodham Clinton promotes a sweeping health care plan in her bid for the Democratic presidential nomination. She loses to Obama, who has a less comprehensive plan. (PAUL RICHARDS/AFP/Getty Images)
President Barack Obama and the Democratic-controlled Congress spend an intense year ironing out legislation to require most companies to cover their workers; mandate that everyone have coverage or pay a fine; require insurance companies to accept all comers, regardless of any pre-existing conditions; and assist people who can't afford insurance. (Alex Wong/Getty Images)
With no Republican support, Congress passes the measure, designed to extend health care coverage to more than 30 million uninsured people. Republican opponents scorned the law as "Obamacare." (Mark Wilson/Getty Images)
On a campaign tour in the Midwest, Obama himself embraces the term "Obamacare" and says the law shows "I do care." (BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images)
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