"By union the smallest states thrive. By discord the greatest are destroyed."
- Sallust (86-35 BC)
It was another tumultuous week in Ontario, as the province's seemingly never-ending battle with its physicians continued. Ontario Medical Association (OMA) President Dr. Virginia Walley sent an open letter to Health Minister Eric Hoskins, requesting Binding Arbitration for the negotiation impasse between physicians and the government.
Then, a letter that within 24 hours had over 400 physician supporters was tweeted out to Hoskins, essentially telling him where to go.
So what does this all mean? Why would Hoskins antagonize physicians and what purpose does it serve?
To understand that, we have to go back to August 14th, 2016, when Ontario physicians soundly rejected a tentative Physician Services Agreement (tPSA), negotiated in secret by the Ontario Medical Association (OMA) executive and using a process that was widely decried by physicians as unfair.
While it has been suggested by faultfinders that only 55 per cent of the membership voted, the reality is that many medical students, residents and retired physicians (who actually have a right to vote) did not vote. The OMA executive continues, as of this date, to refuse to publish a breakdown of the vote, likely to save itself further embarrassment by showing just how many front line working physicians voted against their wishes.
Now, let me be clear, not only have I had the opportunity to meet OMA president, Dr. Virginia Walley, she actually took the time out of an incredibly busy schedule to call me personally about an issue at the OMA a while back and spoke with me for a good 30 minutes. She's a very nice person and clearly cares about her colleagues.
The blunt reality is, however, that she's in a political position, and politics is a blood sport. She and the OMA executive were clearly was taken aback by the significant repudiation of their ardent attempts to sell the flawed agreement to the membership. Most people in political positions would do the honourable thing and resign when the vast majority of their constituents go against their recommendations.
However, the Executive of the OMA Board continues to cling to power and unfortunately, their inability to recognize the bloodthirsty nature of politics is catching up to them, and hurting not only their constituents but the all of the residents of Ontario.
Last week was the perfect example. Feeling the heat from a dissatisfied membership, they attempted to show that the OMA could take a more strident tone by sending the demand for binding arbitration. The fact that they had "sunsetted" virtually every aspect of the negotiations structure (including renowned Labour Lawyer Brian Burkett) and had promised to consult with the membership prior to re-engaging the minister seems to have been rather quickly forgotten.
The grand Hoskins scheme now seems to be to sow discord amongst physicians so they fight amongst themselves.
The problem is that the OMA Executive didn't know just how ruthless and cut throated Eric Hoskins was. He is, after all, a politician first, and a doctor second (and no, he's NOT a family doctor -- to be one, you actually have to have an ongoing practice, built over years, with long lasting relationships with your patients -- he's NEVER done that). A simple bit of research would have shown how conveniently he double crossed Sandra Pupatello in the Liberal leadership convention of 2013, when he realized he could further his political aspirations by supporting Kathleen Wynne instead.
Instead, the OMA was treated to a public two page spanking by the health minister. While most of the letter was the usual lies and nonsense, the key points were his allegation that Dr. Walley herself felt that Binding Arbitration was unreasonable, and had initiated the negotiations under a cloak of a non-disclosures agreement.
As mentioned, since he's a politician first, the veracity of anything he says must seriously be called into doubt. But what is absolutely clear is that he wanted labour peace with the doctors so that he could promote his Orwellian "Patients First" agenda, to be implemented by Bill 210. This was to be the centre piece of his plans and would cement his legacy as health minister. Feeling he had a partner in this in the OMA Executive, he too must have felt completely deflated, as there is simply no way physicians are going to contribute to his plans without labour peace.
So he lashed out and attacked, just like he abandoned Pupatello when the promise of the Health Ministry job came from now Premier Kathleen Wynne. Walley couldn't get the job done for him, so he planted the seed that she never wanted what the membership had asked for all along, in an attempt to further discredit her and create more infighting amongst physicians.
The grand Hoskins scheme now seems to be to sow discord amongst physicians so they fight amongst themselves. He knows that if physicians unite against Bill 210, as they did against the tPSA, he will never be able to succeed in implementing his plans.
The problem is that Bill 210 is an entirely odious piece of legislation that will significantly diminish the health-care system. It will introduce multiple layers of bureaucracy (who needs front line nurses and PSW's when you can have middle managers instead?), introduce the ability for bureaucrats to snoop at your medical records (who needs privacy?), non-medical experts dictating standards (who needs doctors whey you've got Google?) and much more.
Ontario's physicians have a responsibility to protect the public from harmful government policy. They need to unite against Bill 210, and all that it entails. Unfortunately, that likely means that the OMA Executive will need to step down so new blood can take over. It would also help to hire a skilled politician, who can educate them on the ruthless art of politics.
If they don't, then Bill 210 will pass unimpeded, and will significantly worsen health care for all of us.
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