In light of recent political happenings here in Ontario, I thought I'd pen another politically inspired post (so again, if reading about political matters isn't your cup of tea, please consider yourself warned).
As some of you may remember, I wrote my first politically charged post back in February after cuts were imposed on Ontario physicians following failed negotiations between doctors and the Ontario Government. Unfortunately, the two sides remain unwilling to return to the bargaining table and now another round of cuts has been announced for October 1st.
What makes this announcement particularly upsetting is that it has been coupled with a spending cap (and potential claw backs). This means that the government has decided on a particular amount of money they are willing to spend on health care and if doctors bill above that amount, they will not be paid for those services. Now, what's challenging about this, is that the government has decided not to disclose the amount they have decided on for the cap, so doctors have no way of knowing when billings have exceeded this predetermined amount. This is where claw backs come into play. If doctors (unknowingly) bill above the predetermined amount, the government will make up the difference by withholding physician pay from future billings beginning early next year. So it is possible that for a few months next year, some doctors will receive $0 in pay for services rendered. What sucks about this is that doctors don't control how much they bill. Physician fees are predetermined by a Fee Schedule (agreed upon by both doctors and the government), and the number of services billed depends on how much health care is required by the people of Ontario. So if people are sicker or require more health care than the government has planned for, doctors will be penalized for that.
That being said, I think we can all agree that the average citizen won't be throwing a pity party any time soon for the doctors of Ontario. The cuts imposed are unlikely to result in financial ruin for doctors and it's safe to say that the majority of doctors will still maintain a pretty comfortable lifestyle. So what's the big deal?
The big deal is that while quality of care won't suffer (because doctors have taken an oath to provide the best care to their patients), access to health care WILL be impacted. The Government is treating an entire profession like crap and the effects of the disrespectful, unilateral decision-making will, without a doubt, trickle down to patients (i.e. mass exodus of physicians to other provinces/countries).
It's a big ole' cup of "adult" when you finally realize that decisions made by governments really do impact you and your community. As a teen I was blissfully ignorant to politics. My 18th birthday rolled around and I enjoyed the opportunity to exercise my right to vote, did I have a clue what any particular party or candidate represented? Hell no. I'm pretty sure my vote went to whoever had the most interesting looking name. As I chugged into young adulthood, there were a couple more chances to do my civic duty. While the elections seemingly held a little more relevance (since I was a university student at the time), my apathy and general disinterest resulted in my lack of voting at all. I didn't vote?! An educated, passionate person, decided not to vote. People around the world are literally dying to get the opportunity to vote and I, like a jerk, decided that whatever menial activity I had going on that day, was more important than having my voice heard.
The upcoming federal election is the first time in my life that I've felt adequately informed heading to the polls. I use the term "adequately", because politics are huge. I couldn't possibly expect to be intimately versed on all of the intricate details of each party's platform, but I've worked hard to understand broadly how each party's priorities align with mine.
So where am I going with all of this?
The recent dispute between doctors and the province have provided a context for me to competently critique our elected officials. As a result, I've found myself critiquing other aspects and levels of government. What do I want out of my government? What type of community, province, country do I want to live in? It's our responsibility to keep our politicians honest and to ensure our voice is heard (by electing representative individuals at all levels).
Heading into the federal election, I encourage all of you mums and dads, and childless people and grandparents and teens and anyone else living in this great country, to educate yourself. Educate yourself on more than just those issues receiving media coverage. Think of the issues that matter to you and find out how they're represented by those people seeking your vote. Please don't rely on those BS attack ads. Do your research, send a quick email, make a quick phone call and ask. Ask your MPs, ask community leaders, ask your neighbours, ask me! Allow yourself to be flexible in your thinking, take in as many perspectives as possible and challenge not only others, but your own beliefs. Make sure you understand the impact of your own thinking on how you vote.
Then, after the results are tallied and the political dust settles, keep political happenings on your radar. Those people we vote in can and will have big impacts on daily life. Take note. Be critical of elected officials. It's our job as voting taxpayers to hold them accountable for the decisions they make. We owe it to ourselves, our families and our communities.
With respect to the current dispute between doctors and the government, D and I feel that we owe it to our community to remain in the province and do our part to help repair a broken system. For D that means continuing to care for the people of Ontario, even if that means taking a few hits from the provincial government and for me, that means educating everyone I can on the shitty way doctors are being treated and advocating for change!
Until next time,
|Dr. Love explaining to G the finer details of practicing medicine under|
the Robertson Administration.