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Port Stanley News RSS Feed  Regional OMA's Authoritarian Culture Is Hurting Patients

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Concerned Ontario Doctors
OMA's Authoritarian Culture Is Hurting Patients

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 changes.

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 or staff.

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 their profession.

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.


Last Updated: Tuesday, 05 December 2017 13:10:09 PM EST

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