December 5, 2017, Toronto, ON - Ontario's doctors were recently surveyed for their
views of the Ontario Medical Association by Concerned Ontario Doctors, an independent,
grass-roots organization. Over 5,000 responded. Seventy-six percent said they don't
trust the OMA, the doctors' official representative body.
This is not surprising. Since the OMA does not really represent physicians, doctors
cannot effectively advocate against myopic government legislation that hurts patients.
This has left the OMA free to collaborate as a de facto branch of the provincial
government. The survey found 80% of doctors dissatisfied with the OMA's performance
since 2016, including its responses to health care legislation and federal taxation
Since the tax announcement in July, over two-thirds regret following the OMA's recommendation
to ratify the arbitration agreement with the Ontario government in June, forfeiting
the right to engage in job action or strike. Doctors are into their fourth year
without a contract, with $3.5 billion in cuts to patient services that ration care:
one million patients lack a family doctor, some specialist wait times exceed three
years and hospitals are overcapacity. Eighty-seven percent of survey respondents
are pessimistic the OMA will negotiate an appropriate contract.
We believe mandatory, legislated membership dues collected from doctors are the
root cause of the OMA's lack of accountability. It's Canada's only medical association
with fully compulsory fees, granted in 1991 by legislation for the purpose of contract
negotiations. Now only 8% of doctors' $54 million in mandatory annual dues go toward
negotiations. Attempts by doctors for transparency on OMA finances have been blocked,
including requests to publish fees paid to physicians in leadership positions. The
survey found 95% of doctors want full financial transparency.
Ending mandatory dues is supported by two-thirds of physicians in two recent independent
surveys. OMA President Dr. Shawn Whatley best described this view in his blog in
December, 2016 (now deleted): “[Mandatory dues] make OMA beholden to government.
Like a feudal Lord, the OMA exists at the pleasure of its monarch…the OMA must see
[mandatory dues] for what it is: a legislated monopoly that undermines the OMA mission
to serve doctors so that doctors can care for patients."
Nine physicians, including ourselves, recently resigned from our elected OMA positions
due to its authoritarian culture. Some OMA staff and board members have reported
doctors to our regulatory body, the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario,
for expressing differing opinions, potentially a threat to licenses. Eight percent
of doctors surveyed report being intimidated, bullied or threatened by OMA leadership
On November 24, 2017, the OMA consolidated its power with bylaw changes making its
board and the CEO the sole authority to nominate or appoint individuals to the board
and committees. Previously, any doctor could run for committees and the board. The
board will act as “one voice” in the interests of the corporation, not doctors.
This patriarchal structure is a democracy only in the minds of its leaders.
This past week, OMA released its soon to be implemented Code of Conduct Policy to
council. The document has still not been emailed to membership. The policy is unprecedented,
far-reaching and infringes on doctors' freedom of speech. The OMA plans to discipline
its members through its CEO's office for any verbal, written, published or social
media comments the OMA deems to be "hurtful", "disrespectful" or "rude". It goes
further to discipline doctors for "behaviour that is passive in expression" but
which OMA deems to be "aggressive or harmful in intent". OMA's policy will discipline
doctors for actions and comments that it deems not to "align with OMA values" or
that "reflect on the OMA" poorly.
What is most concerning is that this censorship will be done in a veil of secrecy;
the policy contains a confidentiality clause preventing doctors from speaking out
to the public and media about any "verbal and/or written comments" without consent.
OMA will now police and investigate the words and actions of its members in secrecy:
no other provincial or territorial medical association in Canada has such a draconian
policy to silence doctors from advocating for the betterment of their patients and
The authoritarian culture of the OMA represents a threat to public health. Doctors
are silenced and cannot advocate for patients. The OMA has refused calls for a fully
independent, forensic review, supported by 88% of doctors surveyed. Patients must
demand action from their MPPs. The OMA's symbiotic relationship with government
will spiral our healthcare system downward towards collapse.
Dr. Kulvinder Gill (@dockaurG) is a GTA physician, president and co-founder of COD
and the former chair of OMA District 5 (GTA, Dufferin, Simcoe and Muskoka). Dr.
Mark D'Souza (@DrMarkDS) is a Toronto physician, COD board director and the former
chair of OMA District 11 (Toronto).
Background: Concerned Ontario Doctors is a grassroots not-for-profit organization
of physicians across Ontario advocating for a patient-centered, sustainable, accessible
and quality healthcare system. We stand united in our belief that unilateral actions
by any government will undermine our ability to deliver timely and quality patient
care. More information can be found at www.CareNotCuts.ca,
Twitter: @OnCall4ON, Storify:
OnCall4ON, Instagram: OnCall4ON, and Facebook:
We Are Your Ontario Doctors.