Reports & Relevant News

AFHTO President’s column on tentative physician services agreement published

New deal serves doctors and patients alike

Waterloo Region Record article published on Aug. 8, 2016. Article in full pasted below.
Dr. Sean BlaineWaterloo Region Record

My patients are living with increasingly complex chronic medical conditions. It’s for the 2,400 patients in my family practice, and for patients across Ontario, that I add my voice in support of the new agreement between doctors and the government.

Why? Because I believe it represents the foundation for a fresh start after two years of worsening acrimony. I believe the deal will serve the interests of physicians and patients alike.

The tentative agreement guarantees a 2.5-per-cent increase in annual funding compared to the recommendation of 1.25 per cent that was endorsed by former Chief Justice Warren Winkler, in his report released last year.

So contrary to some media reports, acceptance of the tentative deal will not reduce access to services in Ontario; it will instead provide funding to increase services based on population age and growth.

I also serve as the President of the Association of Family Health Teams of Ontario. Our members share a compelling vision that one day soon, all Ontarians will have timely access to high-quality and comprehensive primary care.

We strive to deliver health care that is anchored in an integrated and equitable health system. A system that promotes good health and seamless care for all patients. Looking ahead, I believe this deal makes that system more sustainable.

How will this agreement help us move closer to that vision? The proposed increase provides us with double the growth rate and builds in the added opportunity for essential input from Ontario’s physicians through co-management.

What does “co-management” mean and why does it matter? It’s means having joint responsibility for the ongoing monitoring of health care costs. It includes a responsibility to make some tough decisions in updating the way doctors are paid in a manner that provides value and the best health care for patients. And the embedding of co-management throughout the agreement strongly acknowledges the key role of physicians in our health care system.

This clearly defined joint commitment to ongoing physician participation in health system transformation is essential for physicians and patients alike.

The deal is not perfect. Doctors wanted to achieve binding arbitration from the government in settling contract disputes but were not able to achieve this yet.

However, the Ontario Medical Association court case asking for binding arbitration continues to go forward. Many specific measures to modernize the fee schedule have yet to be worked out and there will be difficult choices to make. However, the government has committed to avoid further negative unilateral action during the four-year course of this agreement.

Finally, and this is key — building a great health care system that works today is only part of the challenge that we all face.

We need to also build our system for tomorrow.

The deal that Ontario’s doctors will vote on will accomplish that by enhancing the sustainability of the system. With this deal, doctors working in a common partnership with the government will be able to ensure that health care in this province is efficiently delivered, appropriately resourced and provides the quality of care that our patients deserve.

Dr. Sean Blaine is the president of the Association of Family Health Teams of Ontario. He works as a family physician and lead physician of STAR Family Health Team in Stratford.

Click here to access the article on Waterloo Region Record website.