Doctors provide dedicated around the clock front-line patient care 365 days a year. From family doctors to emergency physicians, medical specialists to surgeons and anesthesiologists, we all strive to provide timely and exceptional care to patients. It is very distressing and stressful for us when we cannot deliver on that.
Several years of underfunding healthcare across Canada has led to overcrowded emergency departments overflowing into auditoriums and other areas being used as makeshift patient care spaces. Patients waiting several months to over a year for elective surgeries are being cancelled on the day of surgery due to a lack of space in hospitals. To run well, hospitals should be about 85% full (to have the flexibility to deal with surges in demand, sudden outbreaks and emergencies) and it is becoming more common for hospitals to be over 100%, and sometimes up to 115%-120% full. As the population increases and system underfunding continues, there is no end in sight. I fear what will happen if another health crisis like SARS were to resurface.
After several rounds of fee cuts and working without a contract for the last four years, Ontario’s doctors continue to provide uninterrupted service to patients. Last summer, the ministry of health and doctors reached an agreement on a mediation/binding arbitration process and began negotiating once again in September 2017. After four months of negotiations with mediation, doctors were left with no choice but to trigger the arbitration process and look forward to reaching a fair agreement with the province by the fall of 2018.
Federally, the government has implemented tax reforms, which affect all private corporations. These “reforms” will increase the tax burden on many small business owners including farmers, retail stores, restaurants and physicians. These changes will make it more difficult for doctors to provide timely, high level patient care, properly save for their retirement, and pay for benefits that many other workers in Canada enjoy as salaried professionals that doctors do not.
These federal and provincial actions towards doctors have made it difficult to provide optimal care to patients. The healthcare system is under an incredible amount of strain and many parts of the country are in a healthcare crisis. It is distracting to care for patients when we have to continually worry about when the next round of government action is coming. Despite this, Ontario’s doctors will continue to provide the best possible care given the resources we have to work with. I am very concerned about how much more hospitals, doctors and other front line care workers can do to bridge the increasing gap in timely access to quality care. Front line healthcare workers across the country are burning out.
The Ontario provincial election is on the horizon. As patients, as voters, you have the power to help make a difference. This spring, when you have the opportunity to meet your local politicians, help us make healthcare a top election issue. Impress the importance of timely access to high quality healthcare. Nothing is more important than your health.
Rohit Kumar MD, FRCP(C)
Anesthesiologist – Trillium Health Partners
Secretary – THP Professional Staff Association
Member at Large – Ontario’s Anesthesiologists
Delegate – OMA District 5
Lecturer – University of Toronto
(views my own)