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Doctors Not to Blame for Healthcare Cost Headaches

By Dr. Peter W. Kujtan, B.Sc., M.D., Ph.D.

Guest Column printed on page 5 in the July 25, 2012 issue of The Mississauga News
under the feature: Opinion
Portrait of Dr. Peter W. Kujtan, supplied 2005
Dr. Peter W. Kujtan

This is probably the only voice of a family doctor that you may read on the subject, but the recent campaign, by the Minister of Health and the Premier of Ontario, to tar and feather doctors as scapegoats in health care costs, should have all patients concerned.

This all comes totally unexpected to family doctors, and on the heels of massive costly blunders in e-health and orange flush. I attended perhaps the largest gathering of family doctors in the province last week at a local conference. Seeing two thousand of my peers in one room is sobering, because they are mostly gray, weathered, socially minded and one fashion step behind. The parking lot resembled that of the local high school, more so than valet legislative parking. Over two hundred vendors and no one was buying anything much.

It has taken years of work to reverse the tide of shortages and wait lists. You can’t imagine the shock, anger and confusion that doctors feel toward a minister whose message of "work harder, longer and get more done" that they bought into.

I feel like the parent whose child just spent all their savings on candy, and now crying that it's my fault that their friends ate it all. A simple "Thank you" would do, Minister!

The Premier may have a problem with 1% of my colleagues who are legal high billers, but to lambaste all doctors and put the future of health care at risk is not fair to patients.

There was no negotiating with the Ontario Medical Association (OMA) to solve the problem. An OMA that offered solutions and accepted a pay freeze as reflective of current times. There is no mention of fraud either.

What this small percentage do is legal and usually based on endless hours of work, not to mention employing numerous people. To trade blame for votes is shameful and serves only to compound existing problems.

On the financial side, doctors have to run practices as a corporate business. Billing figures are the equivalent of “sales” and are routinely misrepresented as take home salaries. We are encouraged to work limitless and long hours. I still do a 12-day stretch every month. The money from sales goes to pay employees, rent, supplies and myself who draws a modest 5 figure salary, and that is on a 50+ hour week, without pension or benefits.

I dream of a Porsche and once test drove a used one. This is not a complaint but statement of fact.

The problem with allowing the government to unilaterally adjust the price of the meal after it's eaten is that this behavior quickly spreads to other sectors, such as nurses and teachers. Adjudication puts the onus on a third party to decide on a fair solution.

Doctor bashing is a proven way of selling papers and getting votes in our Province, especially when you are falling in the polls.

I have also sat in a room of my specialty colleagues and listened to their anger escalate at this situation. Budget cuts have spin-off on real people like thousands of employees.

I, for one, am truly confused. You will now be waiting even longer and we will both be worrying much more. Complaining to your doctor about wait times for tests is as futile as complaining about class size to your child's teacher.

Those graying Family Docs at the conference are too old to move far, but they all started using strange words again, like "retire" and "exit strategy".

Seven thousand general practitioners working 10 less hours weekly amounts to an invisible loss of 1,750 doctors. Meanwhile, the rest of us get older, sicker and pay more taxes.

Call your MPP and stop shooting the messenger!

Related resources:

Most Ontario doctors understand need for OHIP cap: McGuinty by Antonella Artuso, Queen's Park Bureau Chief, Published in Windsor This Week, Tuesday, July 17, 2012.

McGuinty creates his own mess with doctors and teachers by Christina Blizzard, QMI Agency, Published Wednesday, July 11, 2012.

Ontario doctors taking province to court by Erin Criger, CityNews.ca, Published July 9, 2012. "Ontario’s doctors are taking the province to court over the government’s unilateral fee cuts, which they argue should be reversed."

Ontario doctors need a better bedside manner by Kelly McParland, National Post, Published June 19, 2012.

Rural health care’s formula for calamity by Christie Blatchford, National Post, Published June 12, 2012.

Ontario doctors are being cut too deep by Shady Ashamalla, National Post, Published May 22, 2012.

The misguided whip of Dalton McGuinty by Neil Reynolds, The Globe and Mail, Published Monday, May 21, 2012.

The misguided whip of Dalton McGuinty by Neil Reynolds, The Globe and Mail, Published Monday, May 21, 2012.

Cutting physicians’ pay won’t fix healthcare by Andrea Mandel-Campbell, National Post, Published May 15, 2012.

McGuinty seeks provincial allies in fight to reduce doctors fees by Patrick Brethour and Gloria Galloway, Vancouver and Ottawa, The Globe and Mail, Published Sunday, May 13, 2012.

Ontario’s hardball approach to doctors is also high-risk by Kelly McParland, National Post, Published May 9, 2012.

Memo to McGuinty — Your public-sector partners are saying ‘No’ by Matt Gurney, National Post, Published May 7, 2012.

McGuinty plays hardball with doctors by Antonella Artuso, Queen's Park Bureau Chief, First posted in Toronto Sun, Tuesday, April 24, 2012.

The Amazing Daltoni reveals Ontario’s new non-Drummond plan for debt reduction by Kelly McParland, National Post, Published March 14, 2012.

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