June 12, 2012
Ontario docs want review of fee cuts
By Jonathan Jenkins, Queen's Park Bureau
TORONTO — The doctor will see you now -- in court.
The Ontario Medical Association announced Tuesday it will ask the Ontario Superior Court of Justice to review the government's approach to contract talks.
"The Charter protects the right of associations to be bargained in good faith," Dr. Doug Weir said.
"Rather we've been working with the government since February and nowhere along the way have they done that. What they've done instead is they have imposed fee cuts that are going to hurt patients and are going to make it harder for us to attract doctors to the province.
"What we want really is for them to work with us like governments in (other) provinces have and to negotiate something that's fair for doctors and good for patients."
Weir said the OMA and the Liberal government of Premier Dalton McGuinty had developed a strong working relationship since it was first elected in 2003 but that ended with last fall's vote, which produced a Liberal minority.
And things got much worse, he said, after May 7 when Health Minister Deb Matthews moved to unilaterally cut fees for some services.
The province, which wants a two-year pay freeze for all public-sector workers, says it wants to freeze the amount it pays all doctors for that period.
The OMA has argued that means existing physicians will have to share the same pay envelope with new doctors while serving more patients. It countered with a two-year fee freeze and an additional $250 million in savings it said would be an average 2.5% wage cut.
Weir said the OMA wants to "work collaboratively" with the government and wants a third-party conciliator to help talks along but wouldn't commit to dropping the request for a judicial review if Matthews agreed.
He did say that doctors are unlikely to withdraw their services if the dispute drags on.
"We don't want to involve patients," Weir said.
Matthews is expected to respond to the OMA later Tuesday.
New Democrat health critic France Gelinas said she simply doesn't understand why the government can't give in on the conciliator, to get negotiations moving ahead.
"I think everybody knows that a negotiated settlement would be better," Gelinas said.
"I don't understand why it's so hard to do that little step."