Doctor Day Op-Ed
Dr. Ved Tandan, OMA President
May 1, 2014
As the new President of the Ontario Medical Association, Doctors’ Day is a day on which I feel real pride in the work that my colleagues do, every day, on behalf of their patients and on behalf of this province.
Ken was diagnosed last summer with stomach cancer. It is terminal, and he is going to die very soon. But while his doctors can’t cure his cancer, there is still a great deal they can do. Ken has written movingly about Dr. Cargill at the Windsor Hospice, who has cared for him, worked tirelessly to ensure that he is comfortable, and as Ken puts it, has made the fear go away.
The kind of palliative care offered by Dr. Cargill is just one of the countless ways in which this province's doctors go the extra mile for their patients. Today is Doctors' Day in Ontario. As the new President of the Ontario Medical Association, it is a day on which I feel real pride in the work that my colleagues do, every day, on behalf of their patients and on behalf of this province.
Here are some numbers that illustrate the impact that doctors have on the life of this province: There are 13.5 million people in Ontario, which means there are 13.5 million patients, or prospective patients. 59 million times every year, one of these patient visits his or her family physician. 57 million times, there is a visit to a specialist. And every single one of those visits is an act of trust. It is a patient saying to a doctor, simply, "my health is in your hands."
That level of trust has been hard earned. It's not something you see in every profession. There are other people on whom we may depend for certain services, but very seldom do we trust them in the absolute way that we trust our doctors.
It is clear to me that Ontarians appreciate what doctors do for them in terms of safeguarding their health. The reason we mark Doctors' Day is in part to remind them about the many other contributions that doctors make. Doctors don't just treat illnesses; they are leaders in helping prevent them. The OMA has called for mandatory daily phys-ed programs in high schools, menu calorie labelling in school cafeterias and chain restaurants, and smoking cessation treatments for people who want to quit. There are 26,000 doctors in Ontario who would all confirm that they would much rather help their patients avoid heart disease and cancer than have to treat them.
Doctors are innovators, understanding better than anyone how important it is that we find new and more efficient ways of delivering the care patients need. Take Dr. Greg Ryan, the Head of Fetal Medicine at Mt. Sinai in Toronto, who regularly performs life-saving surgeries on babies while they are still in the womb. That is a procedure that was almost unheard of a generation ago. Dr. Ryan is just one of the many innovative doctors who is changing the face of health care delivery in Ontario.
Finally, doctors help safeguard and improve the health care system that is so very important to Ontarians, and Canadians. If we don't care for the system, and keep it sustainable, we can't care for our patients. In 2012, we established a process to make patient-centred changes based on evidence, efficiency and innovation. A great example of this would be the elimination of the routine annual health exam, or "checkup", which evidence has now shown does little to improve patient health. Instead, we have implemented periodic health visits, which are more personalized to individual patients, and have already saved the health care system more than $40 million in reduced doctor fees and efficiencies with funds redirected to those who need access to care.
We have also worked with the provincial government to reform primary care over the past decade, establishing interdisciplinary models of care in which physicians work with other health providers to ensure that patients are getting the most comprehensive care possible, in a timely manner, close to home. This type of care is good for patients, and because it helps reduce unnecessary hospitalizations, it is very good for the health care system.
Doctors are, first and foremost, caregivers. Patients like Ken can attest to that. And we always will be. But we are embracing our other roles as well, as prevention leaders, innovators, and stewards of a system that means so much to so many.
Dr. Ved Tandan
President, Ontario Medical Association