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Ontario Medical Review
April 5, 2023
Dr. Rose Zacharias
OMA President

This article originally appeared in the Spring 2023 issue of the Ontario Medical Review magazine.

Advocacy work at root of leadership

OMA’s three immediate solutions lay groundwork for improved system

It has been incredible to serve as the OMA president. It is truly a privilege and immense responsibility carrying forward the voice of Ontario’s doctors.    

The health-care system is complicated, and it must be led by strong, thoughtful, emotionally intelligent leaders. Doctors’ presence at the decision-making table with government is vital because no one knows our patients like we do. And so, we do our part, cultivating the relationships that matter in order to bring better care to patients. 

Inside our publicly funded health-care system, a positive and productive relationship with government is crucial. Our expertise is instrumental in building and sustaining a strong, resilient system – one that supports the well-being of physicians so we in turn can provide patients with the care they need, when and where they need it. 

During my presidency I was joined by local physicians in meetings with ministers, MPPs, mayors and other elected officials to discuss our most pressing health-care challenges. Last November alone – along with more than 90 physicians from across the province – we held 38 meetings with MPPs at Queen’s Park.

During the annual OMA Queen’s Park Day, I sat in the legislature with physician colleagues as our names were spoken aloud in statements of welcome. It was incredible. MPPs from all parties acknowledged our work, sacrifice and commitment now and during the difficult pandemic years.

Much of this year has focused on advocating for the OMA’s three immediate solutions that could ease the strain on the health-care system: licensing more foreign-trained doctors, creating Integrated Ambulatory Centres and increasing access to palliative care. These are areas we want the government to move on now. The government is listening.

In January, Ontario’s government announced plans to expand and create new publicly funded community surgical and diagnostic centres to help reduce wait times and create more capacity in the system. This plan closely aligns with many of the key principles of the OMA’s proposal and our advocacy efforts. Our voices were heard.

Additionally, our recent Physician Services Agreement locked in virtual care for patients, creating access and care delivery that is extremely helpful in the comfort of home, reducing barriers to care.

We continue to advocate despite burnout, administrative burden and lack of co-ordination within the system.

Our relationship with patients is at the heart of what we do. I work as a medical hospitalist at Waypoint Centre for Mental Health Care. As I write this, I have paused to take a call from our team pharmacist. A frail elderly patient is in decline and it’s important to ensure pain management and symptom relief. This patient’s end-of-life will be managed with compassion by a skilled team. Every Ontarian deserves this type of high-quality palliative care, but we have more to do. 

As my term comes to a close, I can’t help but emphasize the importance of the relationship we share as doctors. Our communities are watching how we collaborate and advise one another. Our aging patient population with complex needs requires us to work well together. I am encouraged by the dialogue happening between family doctors and specialists toward collaborative care.

I am proud and amazed at how much we have accomplished together in my year as president. When incoming president Dr. Andrew Park begins his term in May, I will remain alongside you to continue conversations that improve our health-care system.