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Ontario Medical Review
January 03, 2023
Matt Ostergard
Manager, executive offices

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

Advocating for members on issues that matter most to them

An interview with OMA CEO Allan O’Dette

allan-odette-headshot.jpgThe last few years haven’t been easy ones. The pandemic has put unprecedented strain on physicians and the entire health-care system. The OMA understands the challenges at hand and is working to address the issues that impede how physicians do their jobs.

The Ontario Medical Review sat down with OMA CEO Allan O’Dette to talk about transformation, physician burnout, government relations and the Physician Services Agreement.

OMR: The OMA has undergone significant changes over the last four years. What is the association trying to accomplish for members with these changes?

O’Dette: What we are really trying to do is strengthen the ties that bind our members. We have undergone a lot of work over the last few years to transform the OMA into an association that truly enables physicians to be physicians. That means enabling them to better serve their patients, ensuring they are fairly compensated, lowering their administrative burden and being strong advocates for addressing the inefficiencies in Ontario’s health-care system.

This important work is being better enabled by a smaller, skills-based board that is focused on our six key outcomes and aligned with OMA resources.

OMR: After 32 months of dealing with the pandemic, Ontario’s doctors are more burned out than ever before. What is the OMA doing to address physician burnout? 

O’Dette: I am extremely concerned about the burnout members are experiencing. It was very much evident before the pandemic started, and has escalated throughout it. Our latest study from 2022 shows that almost three-quarters of physicians are experiencing some form of burnout.

This is not just unsustainable for our members, it is also having negative impacts on our health-care system. The triple threat we are facing this winter of COVID-19, influenza and RSV will only make the problem worse.

We know the top contributors to burnout, and the number one is administrative burden. Studies have found that some physicians are spending two hours on electronic documentation for every hour of patient interaction. Primary care physicians can spend six hours a day recording patient information, both during and after clinic hours. We have got to reduce and streamline documentation. Doctors should be spending more time with their patients, and less time on paperwork.

This year we struck a bilateral Burnout Task Force with the government to start to address some of these issues. Both sides have agreed to target administrative burden as a top priority. The team is working closely with another bilateral group, the Forms Committee, to find solutions. Other solutions for addressing burnout include more flexible work arrangements, support for physician wellness in the workplace, and fair and equitable compensation for all work — including administrative tasks.

Compounding the issue is the overwhelming shortage of physician and other human health resources to support patient care in Ontario. This is challenging work that will require creating consensus with government, but it is critical to the well-being of our members and the sustainability of the health-care system.

OMR: The Ontario Progressive Conservative Party won another term in June. How will the OMA work with the government to make sure the voices of physicians are heard?

O’Dette: We are going to be tireless in our advocacy over the next four years. We released Prescription for Ontario: Doctors’ 5-Point Plan for Better Health Care last year, a policy document with solutions to fix our health-care system. It includes solutions for reducing wait times, expanding mental health and addiction services, improving home and community care, and increasing digital connectedness. 

Prescription for Ontario is aligned with the quadruple aim. That means the recommendations are designed to create better health outcomes, improve clinician and patient experiences and lower costs.

Our strategy is to leverage Prescription for Ontario as a platform to bring forward credible solutions to problems that our members and the health-care system are facing. We are a credible, solutions-oriented medical association. Where there are problems, we will be there with physician-led solutions.

In late November, we convened more than 90 physicians to Queen’s Park to hold meetings with dozens of MPPs. Members brought forward credible solutions to help fix the physician shortage, reduce surgical wait times and create more palliative and hospice care services in community settings.

OMR: OMA members recently ratified the latest Physician Services Agreement, and negotiations for the next contract are only a year away. How is the OMA preparing?

O’Dette: First, I want to thank and congratulate our Negotiations Task Force. They did an impressive job under very difficult circumstances. As you may know, the NTF is made up of appointed physician leaders who are supported by OMA staff. Not only did this group reach an agreement on a new PSA, but they were also on-call to negotiate COVID-19 funding throughout the pandemic. They did a good job under very difficult circumstances. This was also the first time in our history that a PSA was ratified by members in a binding vote.

Following this round of bargaining, we assessed our processes to determine what we were effective at, and where we have opportunities to learn and improve. We are using these learnings to strengthen the plan for the next round of bargaining that starts later this year.

OMR: What does success look like in 2023?

O’Dette: Each year the board defines clear criteria for success through the OMA’s Strategic Operating Plan. For 2023, we have six goals. They are all developed through a lens of providing value to members in critical areas like negotiations, advocacy, burnout, practice supports and representing doctors in all stages of their careers. Success in 2023 will be based on our ability to serve our members in the areas that matter most to them. It’s an honour to serve Ontario’s physicians.

2023 Strategic Operation Plan goals

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The 2021-2024 PSA agreement is being successfully implemented and the OMA has processes and planning completed for the next round of bargaining through consultation with members.

The OMA will act as an agent of system change by promoting the Prescription for Ontario in order to be a trusted and credible influencer to the government and system stakeholders. The OMA drives provincial policy as a leader in advocacy, policy, thought leadership and positions physicians as leaders in health-care system transformation.

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Align OMA resources and efforts including Constituencies, Negotiations, Advocacy, Practice Support, Health Policy, Insurance & Governance with a focus on understanding members needs to help them navigate the health-care system and support them with their practices, health and wellness.
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The OMA is anchored in diversity, equity and inclusiveness and strives to have governance structure and processes in place that best represents members and delivers on the mandate of the organization. Management takes responsibility and is accountable for guiding and supporting Board, General Assembly, Constituency groups.
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The OMA attracts, retains, aligns and integrates employees by promoting a diverse, equitable and inclusive culture that nurtures psychological safety and wellness and by living our mission, vision and values.

The OMA, with its aligned subsidiaries, is an integrated, agile, modern and resilient organization that has embedded learning and continuous improvement to anticipate and mitigate risk.

Editor’s note: A correction has been made to this story. The Negotiations Task Force is made up of appointed physician leaders. The Ontario Medical Review regrets the error.