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Opinion editorial
Aug. 28, 2020

Modernizing the Ontario Medical Association

By Allan O’Dette

Delegates to the OMA’s Fall Council will have the opportunity this November to consider changes that will make the OMA a higher performing, more democratic and more responsive association than ever before.

The OMA is focused on providing high value for its members, Ontario’s doctors. This package of reforms to strengthen and modernize the OMA will sharpen that focus, making it more effective, efficient and agile.

Providing high value for members includes:

  • preparing for the next round of Physician Services Agreement (PSA) negotiations to get the best possible deal for physicians
  • advocating on behalf of doctors for issues that are important to the profession
  • transforming to provide better value and services for doctors—no matter the stage of their career

Members have long complained that the OMA’s outdated governance structure slows down progress for doctors. That is why major, member-driven governance transformation was started in 2018 to begin to reenergize the OMA.  

For example, members have expressed frustration about the association not being democratic enough.

That is why, as part of the package of reforms, members would participate in an open and democratic election process where they would directly elect both the OMA’s Board of Directors and President.

Further, all members would finally have a direct vote on the Physician Services Agreement (PSA) between the OMA and government.

These changes create clear, democratic accountability mechanisms between members and their elected representatives that do not currently exist.

Similarly, members have complained that the roles and responsibilities of the Board and Council are unclear and overlapping, leading to conflict and confusion.

Under the proposed transformation, these roles would be clarified to give the Board of Directors organizational oversight while a reenergized leadership body of physician delegates would lead generative thinking, focusing on driving and shaping health care policy.

One change which has already been endorsed by Board and Council is shrinking the size of the Board of Directors. Smaller Boards make better decisions, are more likely to call out poor performance, and are less likely to fall into group think. Reducing the size of OMA’s unusually large Board will also create significant cost savings for members.

These positive changes are an incredible opportunity to increase democratic representation and accountability while creating an influential new body for health care policy excellence, empowering members to set the policy agenda and resolve issues like relativity.

Further changes will empower more members to directly influence OMA policy and direction through opportunities to participate in member-driven, focused working groups.

These proposed changes are entirely member-driven and come after hundreds of interviews with Directors, Council Delegates, Section, District and Fora chairs and regular members

Nearly universally, physicians have expressed a desire for positive change at the OMA.

I have been in executive positions in large organizations for a long time, including as CEO of the Ontario Chamber of Commerce and as Ontario’s first Chief Investment Officer. One thing I know from my experience in the business world is that organizations that adapt and change to the times are more likely to succeed. Those that fail to do so get left behind.  

A more democratic, more responsive, and more agile OMA will be better prepared to meet the challenge of difficult PSA negotiations with government, and ready to provide the best possible services to its members.

Members have taken the first step in initiating major changes. Seeing these changes through will allow the OMA to modernize and reenergize itself to provide better value and representation for members into the 21st century.

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