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Microphones busy as CMA turns floor over to members at annual meeting

The CMA gave members the floor Aug. 18 during its sixth Members’ Forum, a now annual event that allows them to question elected officials about any issue they wish. And as usual, there was no shortage of questions during the hour-long session, held during the association’s 147th annual meeting in Ottawa.

“The CMA has been preaching transparency for the past decade and this forum is transparency in action,” said Dr. Chris Simpson, who assumed the presidency during the meeting. “Instead of the association setting the agenda, this allows the members themselves to do it. Not only is that a healthy thing to do, but it also allows us [elected officials] to find out firsthand what members’ concerns are.”

During this year’s forum, which attracted about 100 members in person or online, officials such as Simpson, then president Dr. Louis Hugo Francescutti and Board Chair Dr. Brian Brodie responded to 20 questions on topics ranging from the dues the CMA charges to the need for stronger CMA action on end-of-life care. As one physician put it after asking the latter question, “What are we waiting for?”

Simpson preached patience on that contentious issue, which dominated much of the General Council (GC) debate during the Ottawa meeting. “Look how far we’ve come,” he said. “When we started talking about this during GC in 2013, we became mired in terminology. The public town halls the CMA held this year started off by clarifying the definitions, and this helped take the hyperbole out of them.”

He also argued that the CMA had done more to advance end-of-life discussions than any political party. “This is a difficult social issue and the CMA needs to be there. We may not have consensus [yet] but we’re . . . far further ahead than we were.”

One physician asked why there had been “no public outcry” from the CMA about a possible plan to penalize Ontario doctors who take job action. Simpson said there’s been no “outcry” because the CMA’s stance is already well known. “We’ve had a long and consistent history of solidarity with all provincial and territorial medical associations [PTMAs] regarding bargaining,” he said, pointing to the CMA’s recent strong support for New Brunswick’s physicians when they were at an impasse with the provincial government. “There is no question that the CMA and the PTMAs are unified.” (During the 2014 annual meeting, General Council also passed a motion “insisting on the necessity for governments not to renege on freely negotiated and signed agreements by using legislative measures.” — Ed.)

Another physician asked the CMA to consider a membership dues option that would allow physicians to pay only for access to the expertise provided by MD Physician Services, which is a subsidiary company of the CMA. Brodie said the CMA won’t consider that option because it focuses on three areas of business, and not just financial management.

“Those three areas are knowledge for practice, financial management and advocacy, and we believe all three exist as an integrated business,” he said. “The CMA does not want a piecemeal business — when you join the CMA, you join the entire package.”

All 20 questions and the responses provided will be posted on cma.ca later this month.

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