March 6, 2017 - The Ontario Government recently committed to negotiating a fair and independent binding arbitration process with Ontario’s doctors as the first step towards a new Physician Services Agreement.
Nonetheless, this past weekend Ontario’s doctors continued planning for job action – something which would only become necessary if the government reneges on its promises. We certainly do not take these steps lightly. Although the government’s announcement is a very positive development, after so many years of their refusal to accept the need for a fair and independent binding dispute resolution process, we must remain cautious. We are concerned that the government will not follow through and provide doctors with access to a process that is available to all other essential service providers in the province.
Why do doctors need binding arbitration?
Ontario’s doctors have been subjected to unilateral cuts and restrictions by the provincial government not once, but twice in recent years. The province has placed significant restrictions on new family doctors and their ability to practice in the group based model in which they were trained. And we face the prospects of more cuts and more imposed restrictions, which will impact not only doctors but, more importantly, our patients.
There is an imbalance of power, which can only be corrected if an independent arbitrator were given the authority to consider the position of both parties and award a just and reasonable result. Without binding arbitration the government cannot be held accountable to providing necessary services to our growing and aging population. Doctors are shouldering more than their share of the burden, and it is time for the province to come to the table to discuss ways we can work together to improve our health-care system.
Binding arbitration would replace the current system, under which the government can act unilaterally and under which physicians have no choice but to consider taking job action in response. It would provide a fair and independent arbitration process for resolving differences between the government and doctors.
That is why we want you, our patients, to understand why we are planning for the possibility of job action. We are doing so only as a last resort, and in order to obtain a fair and independent dispute resolution process that will, once and for all, ensure that the province and Ontario’s doctors can work as true partners on your behalf.
So, although we truly hope that job action will prove to be unnecessary, we continue to prepare and plan for that possibility. We can assure you, most importantly, that even if physicians are forced to resort to job action, urgent medical care will not be threatened or compromised in any job action.
Ontario’s doctors are ready and committed to standing up for the fairness they deserve, and for the integrity of the health-care system as a whole.
Dr. Rachel Forman
Dr. Robert Swenson