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Ontario Medical Review
Sept. 15, 2022
Dr. Rose Zacharias
OMA President

This article originally appeared in the Fall 2022 issue of the Ontario Medical Review magazine.

The future of health care starts with a culture shift

Physicians make progress toward a better system

In many ways, health care in Ontario is in crisis. With nurses, doctors, personal support workers and others feeling the weight of the pandemic, many health-care workers are experiencing burnout and some are even leaving the profession. This health human resource crisis feels particularly dire as it’s occurring in a system that is already short-staffed.   

Individually, we may be feeling defeated, but I believe collectively, we are strong.

I know we have covered up our struggle in years past but now we are talking about it. There used to be a stigma within the medical profession surrounding burnout but that is finally disappearing. There is now greater acceptance that it is OK to ask for help, a notable change for the better. And we’re making progress. We no longer blame the doctor or talk about self-care. We talk about system pressures and aim for culture shift.

Physicians are high-capacity, competent, compassionate caregivers, yet we are exhausted as we lead the profession. So, what is wrong with the system and how can we fix it to improve both our lives and those of our patients? We want to thrive, not just survive at work.

The OMA is part of this movement and working to make things better for all of us. We’ve studied the issue with our Burnout Task Force and are working with government to implement the key recommendations. We have a more robust physician health program and the OMA is starting to collect data to support a more informed and intelligent discussion. Our Prescription for Ontario: Doctors’ 5-Point Plan for Better Health Care, our roadmap for the future of health care, seeks to address the shortage of physicians, shift to team-based care and increase supports for mental health.

We have been working to build our relationships with government and stakeholders and have grown in credibility and “partner status.” That is something to celebrate. It has not always been this way and I am so proud of how far we have come. The better our relationships, the better the chances that our advice will be acted on and system-wide improvements will be implemented.

We are leaders in this space and we are seeing success. Of the initiatives currently being pursued by the provincial government, 75 of them are aligned with the recommendations in our Prescription for Ontario. Representatives from every level of government are turning to the OMA to weigh in with solutions to current problems.

Stakeholders are seeking opportunities to work together to advance shared causes with strength in numbers. This was recently seen through the paper we developed on strengthening the delivery of mental health and addiction services in primary care with the Primary Care Collaborative.

The health-care system needs leaders worth following and we are those leaders, valued for our integrity, marked by trust. System-wide change does not happen overnight, but we are making progress and my hope is that our patients will soon notice that the system is different and we will soon experience a shift in our culture.

Our hard work and influence are resulting in change that will benefit our colleagues and physicians for years to come. May our energy and impact ever grow.

Thank you. Yes, whole-heartedly thanking you.