Ontario would reduce fees paid to doctors who bill over $1 million a year as part of a new offer to the province’s medical association.
The government’s proposed three-year plan to the Ontario Medical Association — whose members rejected a government contract offer last summer — takes a Robin Hood approach, trimming payout to some doctors and for some procedures that can be conducted faster with new technologies to give lower-paid family doctors an extra $185 million a year.
“Our proposal is reasonable and fair,” Health Minister Eric Hoskins, himself a doctor, told reporters, noting family doctors often earn “significantly less” than many specialists.
“Family doctors are the foundation,” he added. “Supporting them means supporting patients.”
Hoskins said the government wants to boost incomes for some low-paid specialists as well.
The offer given to the OMA before its board meeting Wednesday would increase the budget for paying all doctors by 2.5 per cent annually, Hoskins said.
Hoskins said patients would be able to see doctors more quickly and the plan would allow 1,440 more family physicians to join group health practices.
He promised no across-the-board cuts to doctor payouts and said he hopes the OMA will work with the government to reach a new deal.
“We can’t keep going around in circles,” he added, referring to the last three years of on-and-off talks.
OMA president Dr. Virginia Walley said the association did not see the proposal until 8 a.m. and was not pleased Hoskins revealed it to the media an hour later.
“In large measure, the ministry’s proposal reflects many of the same elements of the tentative agreement that OMA members overwhelmingly rejected this summer,” Walley said in a statement.
“The OMA will be engaging with our membership to consider our options for responding in a measured and appropriate way. In light of the government’s continued lack of respect for the profession, all options are now on the table.”
Hoskins said he released the proposal to the public because he disagreed with the OMA’s insistence that the last round of talks should be subject to a non-disclosure agreement, which he called a “shroud of secrecy.”
“This gives us a greater opportunity to avoid those mistakes of the past, to speak directly to Ontario’s doctors so they understand the elements of this proposal, that they can then consider how it impacts them directly,” the health minister told a news conference.
The pact last summer was rejected by 63 per cent of doctors who voted – but turnout was just 55 per cent.