McGuinty plays hardball with doctors 0
Ontario Medical Association President Dr. Stewart Kennedy tells reporters at Queen's Park on Tuesday April 24 2012 that compensation talks have stalled with the Ontario government. (QMI Agency/Antonella Artuso)
Negotiations between the province's doctors and the Dalton McGuinty Liberals are going so poorly that the Ontario Medical Association (OMA) made a public plea Tuesday for the government to ease up on the tough talk.
OMA president Dr. Stewart Kennedy said concessions demanded by the McGuinty government would mean cuts to doctor fees and programs of more than $1 billion.
"What (McGuinty) wants to do is unsustainable," Kennedy said. "What happens if we go his route, that will be a 16% (pay) decrease on average to every physician in the province. He wants to cherry pick what type of services are going to be affected... I've never seen this happen."
Kennedy said the government rejected the OMA offer of a two-year OHIP fee freeze, and is insisting instead on capping the entire OHIP budget so that the cost of new physicians and patient services must be absorbed by all doctors.
Health Minister Deb Matthews said the "freeze" proposed by doctors would cost taxpayers an extra $700 million over two years.
The Ontario budget made it clear that overall doctor compensation would not rise, so savings must be found from within the funding envelope, she said.
"The amount that we pay doctors has grown from $5.9 billion a year to $11 billion over the past eight years," Matthews said. "Where I come from, zero does not equal $700 million more in doctors' pay."
Kennedy said the government is trying to undo all the benefits of the 2004 OMA deal which helped two million Ontarians get a family doctor,
If the doctors don't accept the offer, the government is threatening to impose it, Kennedy said.
Matthews said the government is still at the table and wants a negotiated deal with physicians, but can move through regulation if necessary to make the changes.
The OMA's criticism of the McGuinty government Tuesday opens up a second very public front in the battle with major public sector labour groups.
Teachers are walking away from provincial discussion tables as the government attempts to impose a total two-year compensation freeze in education.