Why doctors killed the deal between the Wynne government and the OMA

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Why doctors killed the deal between the Wynne government and the OMA

The tentative agreement between the Wynne government and the OMA was an attempt to blame doctors for Liberal mismanagement of the healthcare system

This column by Dr. Merrilee Fullerton originally appeared in the Toronto Sun in the August 21st, 2016 paper.

Sunday, August 21, 2016-Ontario’s doctors voted “no” last week to the tentative Physician Services Agreement between the Ontario Medical Association and the Wynne government that would have doctors co-manage the province’s ailing health care system.

Overall, 63.1% of OMA members rejected the agreement, with 36.9% in favour of it. About 55% of the OMA’s membership voted.

The rejection is indicative of the negative view of Premier Kathleen Wynne’s overall approach to healthcare in the province — one of abdication and deflection.

The centrepiece of the Liberal government-OMA deal was Wynne’s intent to introduce the co-management of the physician services budget. This would have bureaucrats and doctors, together, deciding on the healthcare cuts to meet the government’s scheduled budget targets.

Obviously, neither the OMA nor the Liberal government appear to have had the interests of patients at heart. If they did, they would not be resorting to rationing healthcare services under the guise of “co-management” and “collaboration”.

Wynne has abdicated her responsibility to Ontarians by limiting the physician services budget for patient care well below what can conceivably meet patient demand. Instead of dealing honestly with the surge in health care need due to our growing population, advances in science and technology, and an aging population with all of its associated requirements, the Ontario Liberals are using health care to balance their budget.

They have used rationing of patient care to offset the burgeoning provincial debt that is in excess of $300 billion, created in large part through mismanagement and wasteful spending. The government’s deal with the OMA suggests it is clueless on how to proceed with the province’s healthcare challenges.

Constraining the freedom of physicians in a command and control system where they cannot meet patient demand. and then describing this as being in the “public interest”, is disingenuous. With the deal, the Wynne government has found a deceptive way to deflect public criticism from government decision-making.

Future health care cuts will be couched as “doctor prescribed” rather than “political”. In this way, the Liberals can deflect blame for costs of their own debt and waste onto the province’s healthcare system and its providers. Over the last dozen years, this Liberal government has created a dysfunctional health care system. There have been too many costly scandals, too many mismanaged programs and an ever-growing government bureaucracy.

Rather than limiting health care bureaucracy in order to provide more front-line services, the Liberals plan on expanding the Local Health Integration Networks bureaucracy and, through Bill 210, the so-called Patients First Act, micromanaging physician activity.

Ontario’s healthcare system is strained.

It is harder and harder to provide publicly funded patient services when the government is spending approximately one billion dollars a month servicing the massive debt it created in large part through waste and mismanagement.

Consider what can be paid for with a billion dollars per month: The medical staff, operations and procedures, equipment. Clearly, the Liberals are lost when it comes to creating a responsive and efficient healthcare system to meet the demand for care. Innovation and “modernization” of care will not be found in rationing or managing wait lists. More management and more bureaucracy create inefficiencies.

As this rejected deal illustrated, Wynne’s healthcare legacy is an abdication of duty and a deflection of responsibility away from her government’s wasteful ways. Hardly inspiring.

Ontario can do better — it must do better.

The vision of healthcare in the future cannot be about rationing and denying care, and limiting the freedoms of providers and patients. It must be about empowering patients and providers, including Ontario’s physicians, in providing more services and care, not less.

The doctors’ rejection of the deal was the ethical and appropriate response to a poorly considered healthcare agenda pushed by the Wynne Liberals. Ontario doctors have spoken with resounding support for patients.

However, any celebration of the rejection of this deal should be dampened by the reality there is much work ahead to be done to shore up Ontario’s healthcare system.

Let’s start with the resignation of Health Minister Eric Hoskins who has lost the trust of Ontario’s doctors.

— Dr. Fullerton is a retired family physician in Kanata, Ont. who is seeking the Ontario PC nomination in the new riding of Kanata-Carleton

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