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War of words escalates between OMA and province in fee dispute

War of words escalates between OMA and province in fee dispute
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OMA president Dr. Shawn Whatley said his organization received the government’s final position Sunday evening in their fee dispute, adding that it was within its rights to make the information public under the process both parties agreed to.  (Staff photo)

By Theresa Boyle Health Reporter

Mon., March 12, 2018

The fee dispute between the Ontario Medical Association and provincial government has escalated again with the OMA making public the arbitration positions of both sides and slamming the government’s offer “disappointing.”

The government, in turn, is expressing disappointment in the way the OMA is characterizing its position, noting the two sides had earlier agreed all discussion would be contained to the bargaining table.

The OMA, which represents Ontario’s 34,000 doctors and medical students in fee negotiations, sent two emails to its members Monday, one summarizing its own position and the other providing its take on the government’s position.

The emails were forwarded to the Star by a number of sources.

Earlier in the day, the two sides submitted their final positions to a panel of arbitrators. The OMA triggered the arbitration process in January, as was its right, under a negotiation process agreed to by the two sides last year.

The government relented to arbitration after many years of digging in its heels on the issue. The arbitration process is set to kick off in May. The last physician services agreement expired in 2014.

The OMA revealed it is seeking the following:

The OMA is also calling for no cap on how much the government pays doctors, an amount that currently stands at $12 billion, or about 10 per cent of the entire provincial budget.

The OMA’s summary of the government’s position described it as “profoundly disappointing and disrespectful to the hard-working physicians of this province.”

The email says that the government is proposing “no return of the stolen money” (previous fee cuts), a fee increase of 1 per cent to some specialists, no increase to others and a fee cut for some procedures.

Laura Gallant, spokesperson for Health Minister Helena Jaczek, acknowledged the government was taken by surprise at the way the OMA had described its position.

Pressed for details on what the government is proposing, she said its offer would see the physician services budget increase by more than $3 billion by 2020-21, while the OMA’s proposal would see it jump by more than $13 billion.

That means the two sides are $10 billion apart.

The government wants doctors not to overspend beyond a fixed budget and to reduce services that evidence shows to be inappropriate, but no others.

The arbitration panel will have the final say on a new fee contract.

“As we work through differing views, the arbitrator will play an important role in achieving a fair agreement,” Gallant said.

“Our government is optimistic that by working collaboratively, we will reach a physician services agreement that respects doctors, provides fair growth in compensation, builds a stronger health care system for Ontarians, and will remain sustainable for years to come,” she continued.

OMA president Dr. Shawn Whatley said his organization received the government’s final position Sunday evening, adding that it was within its rights to make the information public under the process both parties agreed to.

He argued the government’s position would make it hard to attract new health-care practitioners to work in Ontario at a time when patients are “facing unconscionable waits” for services such a hip-replacement surgery.
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