02/13/2017 11:58 EST | Updated 02/13/2017 12:03 EST

The Truth Behind Ontario Medical Association's Mass Resignation

Recently, the entire executive of the Ontario Medical Association (OMA) resigned. I was not going to write about it. My personal feeling was that internal OMA issues should stay internal. The public doesn't care who the executive of the OMA is. The public wants a health-care system that will be there for them when they need it, and doctors who will advocate for patient care needs.

However, there has been such a litany of half-truths, innuendo, uninformed speculation and outright lies published by the news media about this, that it really is time to correct some of the nonsense. Toronto Star columnists, in particular, have been almost virulent in promoting the notion that these resignations will somehow lead to a two-tier, private pay health-care system that will destroy the very fabric of Canadian society.

doctor arms crossed

(Photo: Megaflopp via Getty Images)

For the record, I seconded the motion of non-confidence in the executive of the OMA at the Special Council Meeting (SCM). I had a (small) hand in writing the not only the motion, but the "grievance" document that supported the motion. I was also one of the two keynote speakers in favour of the motion (OMA rules allowed for two speakers for, and two against). I think it's safe to say that I know the facts as to how this came about.

This blog is my personal statement only, and not meant to represent the views of any other organization or people. I will also not be talking about any other details of the meeting, other than to refute the erroneous media statements.

Firstly, the Star columnist who wrote the piece is clearly under the impression that this endeavour was carried out by what they view as two breakaway groups, the Coalition of Ontario Doctors (COOD) and Concerned Ontario Doctors (COD). They've long lambasted these groups for solely representing the views of high-billing specialists. The fact that the bulk of COD is made up of family physicians (the lowest-paid specialty) doesn't seem to change their narrative.

This was not due to a small radical group of the dissidents.

In fact, those two groups were not involved in organizing the petition. The Star columnist seemed to use as their source Dean Richard Reznick's blog on the issue, but didn't bother to notice that Reznick himself later admitted he was wrong after he published the blog, and corrected his statement.

Then Martin Regg Cohn made the incredulous assumption that Patrick Brown's Conservatives were behind this. Must be because the Liberals, whom the Star supported in 2014, are in a complete tailspin. Perhaps this is an attack on the perceived front runner for the next election, by linking him to two-tier medicine. Problem is, it's a completely false assumption. There were NO Conservative operatives involved. Zilch. Zero. Nada.

As it turns out, 19 of the 25 physicians who signed the request for the SCM were family physicians. When you consider the motion of non-confidence passed by 55 per cent of delegates at the SCM, along with polls that suggested up to 73 per cent of the membership wanted a change in leadership, you are talking about a majority of physicians who wanted change. This was not due to a small radical group of the dissidents. More than likely, your own doctor supported this change.


Premier Kathleen Wynne during a year-end interview with Rob Benzie and Martin Regg Cohn in her Queen's Park office, Dec. 19, 2016. (Photo: Andrew Francis Wallace/Toronto Star via Getty Images)

Then there are the repeated references in the media to this being a coup or a hostile takeover of some sort. Even the word "insurgency" has been used. Let's be clear about this: every functioning corporation has, as part of its bylaws, the ability to express concern about its leadership in one way or another. Without getting into the minutiae, let me state categorically that the bylaws were followed to the letter. If they weren't, do you really believe the OMA lawyers would have allowed it? This was a democratic vote that followed due process.

Probably the most ridiculous opinion shared in the Star compares the group wanting change at the OMA to TeaParty-style Republicans, or even styling themselves after Trump supporters. Let's get serious here. Are they really comparing a brown female immigrant physician (Nadia Alam) to a Trump supporter? Or a Muslim like myself?

If you want Trump-style politics, read Dr. Berger's venomous screed against Dr. Alam that the Star published two days later. There is no data presented, just a bilious, ad hominem attack against someone he disagrees with, along with gobs of righteous indignation. Saving a premature baby's life is "not special"? I challenge Dr. Berger to tell that to the parents of the baby. Now THAT was a Trump-style attack.

If they unite under a new executive, you will see much more advocacy for health care than ever before.

Let's be clear: the Star's columnists have a right to their editorial opinion. They can advocate for whatever cause they choose, and for whatever style of health care, physician payment scheme or whatever they want. Doesn't matter if physicians agree with them or not.

But what they can't do is use erroneous information and factually incorrect opinions to promote their views. Unlike the United States, where alternative facts are all the rage, in Canada, the truth matters. Shame on the Star for not checking the facts before publishing views that are clearly designed to frighten the public into voting for Premier Kathleen Wynne in the next election.

As for what it means for patients, that will depend on physicians. If they unite under a new executive, you will see much more advocacy for health care than ever before. Already there has been an uptake in doctors tweeting about articles about how Bill 41 is a mistake, or how wait times are so long and more. There will also be much more noise whenever the Premier Wynne's priorities are confused (like giving $8 million dollar raises to executives, while patients at hospitals are kept in hallways for lack of beds).

In short, it means that physicians are now far more activist and will take a much more strident tone advocating for health care than ever before. At the risk of sounding somewhat less than humble, Premier Wynne -- don't say you weren't warned.

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