This past weekend, the Ontario Medical Association (OMA), held its bi-annual council meeting. The council is the governing body of the OMA and sets policy for the organization. It was clear from the enthusiasm and the passion exhibited that the OMA has turned a new leaf.
Firstly, there was the election of Dr. Shawn Whatley to the position of president. The position had been unfilled since the resignation of previous president Dr. Virginia Walley. I know Shawn, and he gave a stupendous speech on the steps necessary to improve the organization. I think he will be, by far the most representative president the OMA has seen in years.
Secondly, there was the election of fellow HuffPost Canada blogger, Dr. Nadia Alam, to the post of president-elect. I consider her to be a friend and colleague, and it's truly remarkable how much she's achieved in the past two years. As OMA Board member Dr. Del Dhanoa put it in his blog, her political career trajectory has been pretty much vertical.
Additionally, there were was an extremely high level of engagement, and at one point 38 motions were discussed in 90 minutes. As my colleague Mario Elia pointed out, the chairs themselves remarked at how many people stayed until the end of the meeting, and were astounded by the level of engagement. The enthusiasm for positive change in the room was palpable. The fact that routinely motions passed with margins of 75, 80 or even 90 per cent showed that profession was unifying strongly after a difficult two years. The biggest problem now is how to handle too much engagement, a far cry from previous years.
So what does this mean for the patients of Ontario? First, and foremost, it means that the OMA will now much more clearly tell the truth about the health care crisis that's gripping the province. Previously, the OMA's version of telling the truth was limited to telling people they were not "Activists" and that they should become Activists.
Out of 1700 patients of mine, only four remembered the ads and none of those four knew what the ads were trying to accomplish. It was left to a multitude of independent physician bloggers to tell the public what was really going on in health care, and frankly, that's not good enough.
Now, as Dr. Whatley put it in his acceptance speech:
"We must find a way to tell the truth about healthcare, but with gentleness. We do not need to be rude or cruel."
We can expect the OMA to start releasing, in a escalating manner, more and more information on how Health Minister "Unilateral Eric" Hoskins has damaged the health care system. Real stories of real patients suffering are sure to follow. I think that the public will be surprised at just how bad things have gotten. My sense is that the public feels the stories in the press are isolated incidents. Unfortunately, this is not the case, and a properly done OMA PR campaign will expose this.
In a show of just how much more aggressive the OMA has become, a resolution indicating that the OMA would litigate against the disastrous Bill 87 was also passed by a wide margin. The message was clear, the OMA simply would no longer tolerate the violation of constitutionally protected Charter rights of its members.
What does this mean for Unilateral Eric Hoskins? Well, to put it bluntly, it means he's finished as Health Minister. His political career may be over as well. My suspicion is that he thought that because he was a physician himself, he could enforce unilateral actions on the Health Care System. He strongly felt that by portraying doctors as greedy in the press, as opposed to working with them, he could survive the health ministry, and one day become premier. He simply didn't have the common sense to realize that you will get further when you work co-operatively with people, than if you vilify them.
The sad thing is that all Unilateral Eric had to do was study the past. As I'd pointed out in my first blog for HuffPost Canada, and in blogs since, when governments attempt unilateral actions in health care, the outcome is tragic. I claim no great prescience in this matter (if I was prescient, I'd know what numbers to pick for Lotto 6/49 this week). I'm simply old. I've seen this act before, and it always ends the same way, with patients suffering, and politicians being turfed.
The other person whose career is most likely finished is Deputy Health Minister Bob Bell. He doesn't get a lot of press since Unilateral Eric is usually the face of the Health Ministry. However, as has been pointed out before, his approval ratings by health care leaders (not doctors, the actual government bureaucrats that run the Health Ministry) are dismal and getting worse with time. I suspect he too thought that as a physician, he could somehow dictate unilateral actions to those he considered his colleagues. He too learned a harsh lesson.
The good news in all this is that if the past is repeating itself, then we know what the future will bring. Sometime this summer, there will be an announcement that the OMA and government have reached an agreement on a Binding Arbitration mechanism for solving disputes. That Unilateral Eric dismissed it just last summer will attempt to be hidden by the government. After that, work will begin in earnest on a Physicians Services Agreement. The deal will likely be in the fall. Then, we can finally expect the disastrous Unilateral Eric to be shuffled out of the Health Ministry, and perhaps Bob Bell to retire.
The people of Ontario pay a lot of money for health care. They deserve a system where doctors and government work co-operatively to address the health care needs of the population. It took doctors becoming more aggressive and forceful, but it looks like we may finally achieve that this year.
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