Doctors often ascribe failures in health care to “the system” as if it’s a separate entity beyond control.
But Dr. Andrew Park says that physicians “have agency and can change the system” but only if united in purpose.
Dr. Park, an emergency physician in London who was installed as OMA president at its AGM on May 4, said he was drawn to serve from seeing the many challenges the profession faces.
“I don’t want to be on the sidelines or be part of a job that sees burnout as a norm. As physicians, we’re not just caregivers but leaders.”
He is the son of immigrants from South Korea and noted that he’s honoured to be the OMA’s first president of East Asian ancestry and a new face in formal leadership, stating that “new faces bring fresh perspectives.”
Dr. Andrew Park took the reins as OMA President during the Annual General Meeting held in Windsor on May 4.
Dr. Park said that for all the good that is our health system, physicians encounter significant issues like wait times, a shortage of family physicians and burnout.
Working with the government to implement Prescription for Ontario: Doctors' 5-Point Plan for Better Health Care, the OMA’s roadmap to fixing the cracks in the health-care system, will be a key priority of his presidency.
“Our association has undergone a transformation that prioritizes the lived experiences of our membership,” Dr. Park said, adding that he is passionate about what can be achieved “with the power of collective voices.”
Outgoing OMA President Dr. Rose Zacharias said when she started practicing, she wondered who was in her corner. She said the answer is clear: the OMA. No other organization encompasses all doctors and brings their collective perspectives to the decision-making tables, she noted.
During her term, Dr. Zacharias gave nearly 400 media interviews pressing health-care issues.
What’s evident to her is that doctors are the ones bringing forward solutions. The OMA is a vehicle for those voices to be heard and to convey them, she said, has formed positive working relationships with government.
Dr. Rose Zacharias bid adieu to her role as OMA president reflecting on a full and successful year.
She said the level of burnout experienced by doctors has nothing to do with their resiliency or lack of self-care, and everything to do with “our deep conviction to care and being inside a health-care system that is strained.”
The hybrid AGM took place in Windsor (District 1), with members also joining virtually from across Ontario.
Dr. Cathy Faulds, chair of the OMA Board of Directors, chaired the meeting and noted how the organization “places our members firmly at the centre.” She said at a time when the system is ever more complex and poses increasing demands, “the commitment of OMA members and staff is our superpower.”
In her organizational report, Dr. Faulds pointed to making the board’s work more transparent and improving recruitment processes to attract a broader mix and diversity of candidates for the board and committees, citing there is more interest than positions available.
Among the past year’s achievements, she highlighted the new Negotiations Task Force and approving a new district charter and leadership structure to better represent the local physician voice.
The OMA’s Board Chair, Dr. Cathy Faulds, chaired this year’s AGM, presenting an operational report while stressing the importance of board transparency.
Interim CEO John Bozzo acknowledged that members are managing undue levels of stress and burden. “More than ever, the OMA needs to step up and connect with members. We need to listen and act.”
He said negotiations with government — a fair contract, delivered on time and in full — is members’ top priority. The OMA has developed a strong engagement and consultation plan to prepare for negotiations with government this fall for the next Physician Services Agreement. A survey this month will enable members to share their priorities for negotiations.
To help shape the OMA’s strategic plan, Bozzo said the board and staff, working with Deloitte, will reach out to the General Assembly and constituency leaders. Refreshing the strategic plan is important as the OMA prepares for negotiations, advocates for fixing a health-care system in crisis and supports members facing fatigue and burnout.
“Every one of these are opportunities for the OMA to lead.”
Interim CEO John Bozzo spoke to AGM attendees about how a refreshed strategic plan will help the OMA as it prepares for negotiations, advocates for fixing health care and supports its members.
Stuart Foxman is a Toronto-based writer.
Photo credit: Ted Kloske