Medical association misleading doctors on wage issue, minister says
Published Thursday, April 12, 2012 5:20PM EDT
TORONTO - The Liberal government is accusing the Ontario Medical Association of misleading doctors and the public about the impact of the provincial budget on health care.
The OMA sent a letter to doctors warning they face a 16 per cent pay cut over four years because of the government's proposed wage freeze.
Health Minister Deb Matthews says the OMA also claims last month's budget made substantial cuts to health care, which she insists "is just not true."
The OMA says it is "seriously concerned" about what it calls the budget's significant negative impact on patients, physicians and the health-care system.
But Matthews says the government wants to take the money that would have been spent to hike doctors' pay and use it to provide more home care and community care services.
She says total compensation for Ontario doctors jumped from $5.9 billion when the Liberals were elected in 2003 to $11 billion last year.
"Let me be perfectly clear: I will not look Ontario patients in the eye and tell them they're going to have to make do with less home care and community care because we're going to have to put that money into the pockets of doctors, who are already earning an average of $362,000 a year," said Matthews.
The Liberals say they will not fund pay increases for doctors in the current negotiations, noting physicians have been getting salary hikes between nine and 11 per cent in recent years.
In a newsletter to members, OMA president Stewart Kennedy says he's concerned about cuts to overall health expenditures and a spending freeze for physician services.
Kennedy says those changes -- along with a lack of new investment to address the needs of an aging population -- could translate into almost 16 per cent less money per doctor.
The Liberals have promised to reduce annual growth in health-care spending to 2.1 per cent from the current 6.1 per cent as they battle a massive deficit.
"Keeping total spending on physician services fixed will be very challenging, if not impossible, given that the government has increased medical school enrolments over the past decade, which will translate into physician supply growth of about 2.7 per cent per year over the next four years," said Kennedy.
"By not allowing spending to increase to keep pace with utilization, the government will in effect be taxing the province's 26,000 physicians to pay for the growing medical needs of Ontarians."
The Liberals are seeking a pay freeze for teachers, doctors and the public sector, and have warned they are prepared to legislate the change if it is not achieved through collective bargaining.
Ontario's elementary school teachers lashed out at the government Thursday for publicly chastising their union after it walked away from the voluntary process that would help guide negotiations.