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News Release

Ontario Medical Association's
"Social Contract Days"
Penalize Patients

April 5, 1995

The Ontario Medical Association is asking its members to withdraw all but essential health services for three days in April, and for one day in each subsequent month. The Medical Reform Group, an alternative voice of Ontario physicians, believes the OMA is acting irresponsibly in encouraging its members to withdraw services.

The OMA and the Ontario government negotiated a "ceiling" on government payments to physicians. For the 1994-95 fiscal year, this ceiling was approximately $3.9 billion, and for 1995-96 it will be $3.8 billion. Both the government and the OMA acted appropriately in setting the ceiling. Given the reductions in income, and job losses for every other group in the health care sector, it is necessary that physicians bear their share of the burden.

Physicians' billings have consistently exceeded the ceiling on which the government and the OMA agreed. As a result, the government has instituted "holdbacks" and "clawbacks" (in which a proportion of physician billings have not been paid) to keep physician payments from exceeding the ceiling. The OMA's decision to withdraw services is a response to the government's measure to enforce the ceiling on physicians' payments.

The MRG believes that physicians should not respond to the payment ceiling by reducing needed services, and thus penalizing patients. Since physicians remain by far the best-paid group of workers in the health care sector, it would be reasonable for them to absorb an effective decrease in their fee-for-service payments.

Even more desirable would be implementation of a plan to reduce billings by more efficient delivery of health care services.

As well as unnecessarily penalizing patients, the OMA's chosen strategy will reduce physicians' credibility, and the public's trust. The profession can ill afford this loss of trust if it wishes to play an important role in the fight to maintain universal, high-quality health care for the citizens of Ontario. The MRG calls on physicians to not participate in withdrawal of services, and to lobby their professional organization to look for innovative ways of reducing expenditures by increasing efficiency of health care delivery.

Contact: Ulli Diemer, Medical Reform Group Administrator

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