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Doctors reject province's contract offer

By Terry Davidson, Toronto Sun

Concerned Ontario Doctors held a rally in Toronto last month to protest negotiations between the Ontario Medical Association and the provincial government. (JACK BOLAND, Toronto Sun)

Concerned Ontario Doctors held a rally in Toronto last month to protest negotiations between the Ontario Medical Association and the provincial government. (JACK BOLAND, Toronto Sun)

Ontario’s divided doctors have rejected a controversial tentative deal recently reached with the province.

The Ontario Medical Association confirmed that about 63% of its membership Monday rejected a four-year deal that would have boosted the province’s $11.5-billion physician services budget by 2.5% annually over the life of the agreement. It would have also allowed physicians to “co-manage” their funding with Ontario’s Liberal government.

The OMA reported that 55% of its membership participated in the vote.

Since the tentative deal was reached between the OMA and the Ministry of Health last month, cracks have been widening among the province’s doctors.

Many insisted the deal would force physicians to shoulder cuts, and that it ignored inflation. Critics complained it also negatively impacted doctors just starting out, and made permanent billions of dollars worth of cuts.

Dr. Nadia Alam, of Concerned Ontario Doctors, said physicians voted against the contract because they are sick of the status quo. She called it a “line in the sand” drawn by doctors.

“This government has underfunded the health-care system ... to such a degree that front-line doctors ... are finding it next to impossible to (provide) the proper care for their patients,” said Alam. “This contract is more of the same. It sets us up for another four years of having to ration care and services just to fit into the government’s unreasonable and unrealistic budget.”

Alam, a family doctor running a practice out of Georgetown, said she went without a paycheque for three months last year in order to keep her clinic running.

“We’ve leaned down our businesses to the bare minimum just so we can keep going ... This is our line in the sand,” she said.

OMA president Dr. Virginia Walley said she respects her members’ decision, but talked of “positive” elements in the downed deal.

“We believed the agreement in front of members had a number of positive attributes, particularly in the context that we find ourselves these days, and we knew it was our responsibility to take it to members to have them express their opinion,” said Walley.

Health Minister Eric Hoskins issued a statement saying he was disappointed doctors rejected a deal “that would have offered the province’s physicians, for the first time, an opportunity to have a seat at the table where decisions are made about spending and the future of our health-care system.”

PC leader Patrick Brown and health critic Jeff Yurek said in a statement the vote was a “democratic response ... to the ... Liberals’ short-sighted cuts to patient care.”

— With files from The Canadian Press

TDavidson@postmedia.com



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