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Ongoing tensions for Ontario, Quebec physicians

Anger and frustration continue to dominate the mood of doctors in Quebec and Ontario as they deal with what are widely seen as anti-physician initiatives from their respective governments.

In Quebec, a coalition of general practitioners known as the regroupement des médecins omnipraticiens pour une médecine engagée (ROME) recently held a summit with several hundred participants in Montreal to propose alternatives to Bill 20. Bill 20 is draft legislation introduced in Quebec by health minister Gaétan Barrette that would impose a quota system, forcing physicians to treat a minimum number of patients.

In Ontario, the recent annual council meeting of the Ontario Medical Association (OMA) was dominated by concerns about recent provincial government actions such as unilaterally imposing a 2.65% cut in physician fees and limiting the overall physician budget to an increase of 1.25% annually.

“We continue to support our members in Quebec and Ontario in their struggles to provide the best care for patients in the face of unacceptable measures imposed or threatened by their provincial governments,” said CMA President Chris Simpson.

In a speech to the Economic Club of Canada at the end of April, then-OMA President Ved Tandan said the Ontario government plan on health care “is driven by short-sighted responses to fiscal concerns, instead of sustainable responses to real health care issues.”

Not only are doctors being given a reason to leave the province but they have a place to go, said Tandan in a release, noting the present shortage of physicians in the United States. Instead of Ontario retaining doctors and attracting new ones, he said, it is chasing them away.

At the OMA council meeting, delegates voted overwhelmingly to demand that the agreement with the government be amended to include a binding dispute-resolution mechanism.

In a summary of the meeting, new OMA President Michael Toth said the ultimate aims of the association are to have the government change its course of action and return to the negotiating table.

At the ROME meeting, Quebec physicians heard from colleagues outside of the province such as Doctors of BC former president Shelley Ross, who provided insights into how reform in primary care had been dealt with more collaboratively in British Columbia.

Hearings by the National Assembly concerning Bill 20 have now concluded but it is not known when the new legislation might be enacted by the majority government. Earlier in the spring, the CMA joined the Quebec Medical Association in a historic joint presentation at those hearings in which the two organizations spelled out why Bill 20 was the wrong approach to increasing accessibility to medical care in Quebec.

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