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Press Release on the Physicians Strike from the Medical Reform Group of Ontario

The Medical Reform Group represents the views of physicians concerned about the challenges faced by Medicare in the I980's . We believe Universal Access to Free, High Quality Health Care is the right of all Ontario Residents.

PHYSICIAN'S GROUP SEES ALTERNATIVE WAYS OF SETTLING CURRENT FEE DISPUTE

The Medical Reform Group disagrees with the decision taken by the O.M.A. to initiate a 2 day strike to settle the current pay dispute and believe the issues can still be resolve through negotiation.

By focusing on the single issue of physician's pay it is easy to lose sight of the fact that physicians have longstanding and justified grievances with many other aspects of our Medicare system. These include the lack of incentive to practise preventive health care, the manner in which O.H.I.P. itself is administered and reductions in the health and social service budget that leaves Ontario spending less per capita on these areas than any other province.

Although the O.M.A.'s dispute is with the government, it is their patients, with whom fee-for-service practitioners have individual contracts, who will bear the brunt of the doctors sanctions. In the short term the public will suffer; in the long term Medicare can only be weakened, and physician patient relationships damaged.

The M.R.G. recognises that many physicians are unhappy about having to take strike action, yet wish to see the dispute settled speedily. We believe there are other options open to both sides, and would now like to see the following.

1) Every effort should be made to resolve the impasse at the negotiating table. If this is not possible, the issues should be submitted to an independent arbitrator, acceptable to both sides, who's decision would be binding on all concerned.

2) Any doctor who disagreed with the new fee schedule would have the right to charge a higher amount, but neither the physician nor the patient would receive reimbursement from O.H.I.P. for any part of that fee.

3) The other problems Medicare faces should be addressed now. The government should immediately set up a review of both the administration of O.H.I.P. and alternative forms of physician remuneration, such as salary or capitation fees, as part of a lasting settlement.

4) The government should set up long-term discussions to examine the entire range of problems faced by Medicare. These should involve the government, representatives of the Medical community including the M.R.G., other health workers and, where relevant, health consumers.

5) To prevent a recurrence of the current deadlock , the O.M.A. and the government need to define and clarify their respective obligations and responsibilities for any future rounds of negotiations.

6) If the O.M.A. does intend to use mass action as a bargaining tool on a future occasion they should consider reconstituting themselves as a formal union, thereby accepting the ensuing benefits and responsibilities.

For any further information please contact:
Hamilton: Dr. Nick Kates
Toronto: Dr. Debbie Copes

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