Ontario MDs: More of us need to engage

I have spent this weekend at the OMA Annual General Meeting and have had the pleasure of interacting with physicians and leaders from across the province, discussing matters of remuneration, health policy and governance.

One of themes that has come up repeatedly has been the seeming disconnect between physician leaders and the actions of the general populace of physicians in our community. A prime example of this has been the physician response to the recent draconian government cuts. A recent poll showed that while over 70% of Ontario physicians support posting educational materials and writing letters to our patients about the clawbacks, only 20-30% said they would actually participate in these actions.

Why the disconnect between their beliefs and their actions? Certainly part of this is governed by human behaviour. It’s easy to have beliefs, more difficult to take action. Another aspect may be the feeling from physicians that they are only one voice, and will be merely a drop in the dissenting bucket of physicians.

But let me tell you this, one thing I’ve learned over the past few months is the power of every voice. People have commended the work I do on this blog, and I appreciate the compliments, but why don’t more share their ideas through this ridiculously easy medium? Physicians have so many great ideas, and rather than keep them private, why not get them out there to see the response? Some may be popular, some not, but at least get the discussion going.

What about Facebook and Twitter? Realistically every physician with a computer should have an account for their practice. It helps to disseminate relevant clinical information as well as aiding in the general promotion of our profession. Our brand as physicians is being slowly eroded, and we need to leverage social media to strengthen our presence. I realize the irony of asking physicians who are reading this blog to be more active online. The majority of you will already have a strong online presence, but we need to step outside of our existing online community and engage those who have been hesitant to take the plunge.

Any benefit from speaking to MPPs about our concerns? I met personally with my MPP Jeff Yurek, and I’m pleased to say he has been one of the few MPPs to stand up in the legislature and challenge Minister Hoskins on his policies. There is no reason you can’t have the same effect with your own MPP, whether they are a member of a majority or minority party.

Don’t like the materials the OMA has sent out? Don’t feel that they are relevant to your practice? Create your own! I have crafted a letter that I have distributed to all of my patients, detailing to them how the cuts will affect them in my practice (lack of access to after-hours clinic since I can’t join a FHO, specialists leaving the province or retiring leading to longer wait times, no new physicians coming to region which may affect family members, etc). All of our practices have different issues, so craft your own message.

A quick message to those of you who aren’t concerned about the cuts. Yes, we’re well compensated. Yes, we can probably all survive a 2.5% cut to all of our fees. But unless you are prepared to be paid zero dollars for a number of months in late 2015 and early 2016 because of the global cap, government cuts should be a concern to all of us. The government has refused to have any further negotiations with the OMA, preferring to simply impose the cuts indefinitely. In these most recent negotiations, no agreement could be found through conciliation and mediation, and in the absence of binding arbitration, the government brazenly felt empowered to enforce their own cuts. Before we can begin to fix the system we have (optimizing utilization, enforcing accountability to MDs who are inflating utilization, etc.), we need an agreement from the government for binding arbitration, so that improvements can be made to our system through mutual respect. The OMA council has approved a motion this weekend demanding that government agree to binding arbitration. This is simply a logical way to resolve our dispute. Should the government refuse the call for binding arbitration, they will show the public how truly un-democratic the government’s approach is in their dealings with physicians.

So here are my challenges to you physicians for the month of May:

1) Start a Twitter and Facebook account for your practice and begin to engage with other physicians, if you haven’t already done so..

2) Make a specific point to encourage colleagues in your practice group to join Twitter and Facebook. Set a goal of approaching at least 5 physicians about this.

3) If you are one of the 70% of physicians who support posting OMA promotional materials in your office or writing a PERSONALIZED letter to your patients, be one of the 70% of physicians who actually do it. Don’t be a spectator.

4) Contact your local MPP and demand a meeting to discuss the ongoing physician-MOH dispute.

5) When issues arise with patients around wait times or frustration with access to tests or specialists, immediately encourage them to write a letter to their MPP. Those patients need to know they have the ability to strongly advocate for themselves.

Oh, it’s my birthday this coming Thursday, so in lieu of gifts, follow my advice 🙂

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One thought on “Ontario MDs: More of us need to engage

  1. Md

    The disconnect comes from the belief that the OMA has a greater interest in preserving itself than representing individual doctors. For instance instead of pursuing the legal challenge of lack of due process they sign a ludicrous deal like the one in 2012 that threw some doctors under the bus to give themselves flawed exclusive representation and negotiation rights. At that time the government imposed a deal and only returned to the table after grass roots and some other physician groups spent their time and money informing the public of what the cuts would mean to healthcare. It’s time for the OMA to do some if that heavy lifting and become a true representative of the doctors it “negotiated” for last time.

    Finally, the disconnect is complicated by the structure of representation of the OMA. This governing structure is so complex that its impossible for a regular MD, never mind a minority specialist, to try and get their voice heard. For example I belong to to an area district and section that all ask for addition fees above and beyond the escalating OMA dues in order to represent me to a board that is not elected but appointed and makes all of the decisions.

    I truly feel sorry for any new MD in this province. Instead of having strong representational leadership you have a patriarchal old boys club that appoints its leaders and makes decisions to help itself rather than listening to the needs and voices of its members. This makes it easy pickings for the government.

    I have been through 20+ years of hearing the same thing from the OMA. “Contact our MPP, put up posters …. ” to what end? Einstein said it best; the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different outcome. Time maybe for the OMA to do something different?

    PS happy birthday anyways.

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