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News Release

MRG Calls OMA Ad Campaign Misleading

March 25,1986

The Medical Reform Group of Ontario today asked the Ontario Medical Association to cease their misleading advertising to their members and the public. Dr. Philip Berger, a Toronto family doctor and spokesman for the group called upon the leadership of the OMA to provide accurate information and to accept the proposed ban on extra billing. Berger said that properly conducted studies have shown that extra billing does deter some patients from seeking medical care and is not a "smokescreen" for other issues as the OMA has claimed. The OMA has asserted that the "real" problems are underfunding and lack of chronic care beds and high technology equipment.

Berger charged that the OMA has buried a Canadian Medical Association report on the funding of the health care system because its conclusions contradict their own. Joan Watson, a former host of CBC's Marketplace, chaired the task force which reported in 1984. Two of the five commissionaires were doctors while the others were Roy Romanow, former Attorney-General of Saskatchewan and the Hon. Pauline McGibbon, former Lieutenant-Governor of Ontario. The task force concluded that, given the health system's existing inefficiencies there was no evidence for the CMA's and OMA's claim that there was "dangerous underfunding". The task force did find evidence of maldistribution of resources and personnel within the present system.

The commission found that Canada's rate of institutionalization of its elderly was 80% higher than the United States and 90% higher than Great Britain. It recommended that Canada develop alternatives to what it referred to as "the callous practice of warehousing the elderly." CMA Task Force (p.37). Finally, the task force found much of our highly-touted, high technology is insufficiently evaluated and inappropriately used.

The CMA report cost over $500,000 but the OMA has refused to spend the estimated $50,000 to distribute copies to its membership. Dr. Berger said that a member of the MRG who is also a member of the OMA had sent $100 to the OMA asking them to distribute the CMA task force report but his cheque was returned. Berger said further,

"Medicine, and the science upon which medicine is founded are premised on the pursuit of knowledge. This fundamental tenet of medicine applies to basic scientific research, accurate diagnoses of patient problems, and epidemiological analyses of health care systems. Whatever the area of medicine physicians must consider all available evidence and then present their impressions honestly and clearly to their patients or the public. The OMA leadership has strayed off the course of scientific inquiry and search for knowledge. Its current advertising campaign reflects badly on the ethics and the practice of medicine."

Berger called upon the OMA to withdraw its advertising campaign and correct its misinformation.

The MRG also reaffirms its opposition to the OMA's call for physicians to discuss the proposed ban on extra billing with their patients. The group feels it is unethical for doctors to initiate political discussions with their patients.

For further information:
Dr. Philip Berger
Dr. Michael Rachlis

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