Health minister warns doctors not to expect raises
Published Thursday, February 23, 2012 9:59AM EST
Ontario's health minister said Wednesday that the province's doctors should not expect pay raises as the province copes with a $16-billion deficit.
"We need the money where it will do the best for patients, and spending more on physician compensation is not the best way to spend money given the pressures on our system right now," Deb Matthews told reporters.
In previous statements, the Ontario government has also advocated a new approach for doctors, including booking same-day appointments and working nights and weekends.
The blunt statements come as the province's more than 25,000 doctors get ready to negotiate a new contract with Queen's Park. Negotiators will sit down on Thursday to begin talks.
The average physician in Ontario made $334,700 in 2009/10 and is projected to make $361,922 in 2011/12, the Ministry of Health said.
Matthews said that the Ontario government has paid doctors well over the past eight years. But now, "we've got a lot of demands on our health care system," she said.
When asked how far the government will go to trim costs, Matthews told CTV Toronto's Paul Bliss that the fiscal framework remains "very challenging."
"It is my responsibility to allocate the money where it will do the best for patients, and spending more on physician compensation is not the best way to spend money, given the pressures on our system right now."
In light of the recent economic report from economist Don Drummond, Ontario has been forced to confront the grim economic reality that costs must be cut. The report noted that Ontario doctors are the highest paid in the country, and that salaries should be frozen.
It's believed that doctors in Ontario make about $8 billion annually in combined salaries, and their current contract expires on March 31.
NDP Leader Andrea Horwath agreed that doctors should do their part to ensure Ontario gets its fiscal house in order.
"There's no doubt the negotiations with doctors are going to be difficult, but I think everybody realizes that there has to be a sharing of the pain, including those at the top," she said.
Doctor salaries have increased 68 per cent since Dalton McGuinty took over as premier in 2003.