Frank Klees

Frankly Speaking

Article by Teresa Latchford, OHIP fee cuts will hurt patients: doctors

The Government, Your Doctors and You : Part Two

"We are at risk of losing all we've achieved in the last 20 years in reducing wait lists and improving outcomes for patients with heart disease."

Two weeks ago in this column, I committed to host a Public Information Meeting for the purpose of hearing from medical practitioners in our community about how the McGuinty government's plans to cut healthcare funding will affect the our health care services.

The statement quoted above, was made by Dr. Warren Cantor, Interventional Cardiologist at Southlake Regional Health Centre, one of ten physicians who made presentations at the meeting.

The dining room at the Roxborough Retirement Residence in Newmarket was overflowing long before the meeting was scheduled to start. Standing room only, and an interesting gathering it was ! 

Passionate presentations by physicians put the McGuinty government's proposed cuts to health care into perspective. Thoughts that this controversy was all about the medical profession defending their incomes were quickly dispelled.

The recurring theme, was that physicians recognize that our province is in a fiscal crisis, that the cost of health care must be controlled and that physicians must do their part to control costs. In fact, the Ontario Medical Association has agreed to a two year freeze on all physicians' fees and a number of specialties have even voluntarily reduced their fees in the past couple of years. 

Unilateral imposition of cuts to fee schedules.......

What is at issue in this fight between the McGuinty government and Ontario's physicians, is the fact that beyond the voluntary freeze,  the government has announced cuts to a number of fee schedules without any consultations with the medical profession. The unintended consequences of those cuts are far reaching.

The consequences of the unilateral cuts to health care funding.....

Here's what we heard from our community physicians:

Dr. Yin-Hui Siow, Director of Nuclear Medicine, Southlake warned that inadequate compensation for anesthesia to cover cataract cases will result in a lack of adequate sedation and pain control and service withdrawals.

Dr. Ken Lai, Medical Director and Family Physician discussed the "burn-out effect" that the unilateral cuts will have on physicians. 

Dr. Asif Salyani, Ophthalmologist, told us that he will not be able to follow through on his plans to establish a state-of -the-art retinal eye center in Newmarket. As one of the few providers of such care in the region, he said that he is gravely concerned about the inevitable; that patient access to care will suffer, wait lists will increase and many patients will permanently lose their sight as a result.

Dr. Peter Watt, Obstetrician and Gynecologist, stressed that all physicians agree that health care costs must be contained, and that physicians want to be part of the solution to deal with the province’s $16 Billion deficit. The unilateral imposition of the government's funding cuts and the implications to malpractice insurance costs, will make it impossible for many physicians to continue their practices. 

The Prognosis is not good ..........

If the McGuinty government insists on forging ahead with its proposed health care funding cuts, the prognosis is not good. Longer waits and fewer locations and delays for diagnostic tests and treatment for cardiac patients, many clinics will be forced to close, glaucoma, diabetic retinal and macular degeneration testing will be curtailed, and access to health care in general, will be jeopardized.

What do Doctors want ?

In the words of Dr. Warren Cantor, “We want to engage in constructive and respectful dialogue with the Ministry of Health, rather than have unilateral decisions imposed by the government that put patient safety at risk." 

Constructive and respectful dialogue between our Government and our Doctors.

Seems like a reasonable request. That's the way it should be. The medical profession in this province is asking for nothing more, and deserves nothing less.