The association representing more than 42,000 physicians and medical students in Ontario has voted against a doctor’s fee deal proposed by the province.
Following weeks of debate over the proposal, 63.1 per cent of the Ontario Medical Association’s members voted against the tentative Physician Services Agreement (PSA).
The proposed four-year agreement would have increased the province’s current $11.5 billion physician services budget by 2.5 per cent a year bringing it up to $12.9 billion by 2020. The deal would have allowed doctors to co-manage the system with the Ministry of Health.
The proposed 2.5 per cent increase was “simply not sufficient,” Nadia Alam, co-leader of the Concerned Ontario Doctors, said during an interview with CBC Radio. Her group staged protests and urged doctors to reject the deal.
While the deal would have added $1 billion to physicians’ budgets, Alam said the money and would not cover the services actually needed by patients.
“The government can still do what they want and still sacrifice patient care for an unrealistic budget and physicians are powerless to stop it,” she said. “So that’s what we couldn’t agree to. That was our line in the sand.”
Alam said the problem was not just about how big the budget was but also how it was being spent. She said Ontarians are not able to receive adequate medical care because money for healthcare was not being properly managed.
“Members have spoken, and the Board of Directors respects their decision,” Dr. Virginia Walley, President of the Ontario Medical Association, said in a statement.
“With ongoing unilateral government actions and cutbacks, the past two years have been some of the most challenging and demoralizing in recent memory for Ontario’s doctors,” the statement said. “Ultimately, as expressed by the results of this vote, members have made it clear that more is required from the Ontario government in order to best serve the interests of the profession and patients.”
With this decision taken the OMA will move immediately to:
- Convene a meeting of its Board of Directors;
- Consult with members and physician leaders to identify additional priorities that must be addressed when negotiations resume in the future;
- Request a meeting with the Ontario government to communicate in clear terms the OMA’s expectations for renewed negotiations;
- Continue the Charter challenge launched by the OMA to secure binding arbitration for Ontario’s doctors.
Eric Hoskins, Ontario’s minister of health, said the deal would have been an opportunity for the province’s doctors to “have a seat at the table where decisions are made about spending and the future of our health-care system.”
Hoskins, who was disappointed with how the vote came out, told the CBC, the result will not impact government plans for investments for more doctors and expansion of home and community care services.
“I want to assure the people and patients of Ontario that their access to physicians and the health-care system will not be affected,” he said.