Straight talk on health care?

Unfortunately, you won’t hear any coming from Ontario’s Liberal government

First posted: Sunday, October 18, 2015 01:00 AM EDT

There’s an old saying popularized by American satirist Mark Twain, that there are three kinds of lies: “Lies, damned lies, and statistics.”
As a family doctor in Ontario, who reluctantly became involved in medical politics in the late 1990s, I’ve heard more than a few “tall tales” over the past two decades.
But in all my years spent working diligently in the health-care trenches, I’ve never witnessed anything quite like what we’ve seen these past few months.
One misleading statement after another from the provincial government. One untruth after another. One attempt at manipulating public sentiment after another, by making doctors out to be villains.All spoken or supported by Premier Kathleen Wynne, Treasury Board President Deb Matthews and now, Health Minister Eric Hoskins — himself a medical doctor and therefore someone who should know better.

Experts tell us people typically lie because it makes it easier for them to gain control over their world, assuming they can get away with it. It involves the deliberate creation of a false belief or impression, in order to convince someone to believe something that isn’t true. It’s also a way of getting others to go along with you, and do what you want them to do.
Of course, the biggest problem with telling lies is that it soon becomes an addiction. After spending more than a decade in power, the Ontario Liberals appear to be incapable of telling the truth about Ontario’s doctors.

Here are a few recent examples:
LIBERAL SPIN: Ontario’s doctors have seen their salaries increase by 61% since 2003.
LIBERAL SPIN: Ontario’s doctors make, on average, $360,000 in salary per year.
LIBERAL SPIN: Ontario’s doctors are more interested in their own welfare, and have shown themselves to be unwilling to work with us to help transform our healthcare system, and redirect valuable resources where they’re needed into programs such as home care.

Now here’s the reality:
TRUTH: The government has increased funding for physician services by 61% since 2003 but the money was not simply given to doctors in the form of a raise. Instead, it was provided to cover the increased medical services needed by our growing and aging population — including the 2.1 million patients in Ontario who were finally able to find a family doctor. This money also covers targeted areas of increased need such as MRIs and CT scans, cancer and cardiac care and cataract and hip replacement surgeries, in order to reduce wait times. These successes wouldn’t have been possible without the assistance of Ontario’s doctors.
TRUTH: When it comes to physician salaries, I would love to receive a salary of $360,000 per year. Where do I sign up? As a family doctor, I make $120,000 annually, after covering my office overhead and paying my staff. All this for the privilege of working 60 hours a week, being harassed by the College of Physicians and Surgeons and having no benefits, pension plan, vacation pay or sick leave. Oh, and did I mention most doctors graduate with between $100,000 and $200,000 in student debt?
TRUTH: Ontario’s doctors have always been interested in working with the provincial government to serve our patients and ensure our health care resources are being used as wisely as possible. Unfortunately, this government just makes stuff up while demonizing doctors, such as claiming we walked away from the negotiating table.

Sadly, for Ontario patients, things are about to get much worse. As a result of the Liberals’ decision to slash OHIP fees even further, and to begin clawing back funds from physicians as of Oct. 1, many Ontario doctors will start to look at relocating to more doctor-friendly jurisdictions, instead of sticking around where they’re not appreciated. Many other doctors — perhaps up to 5,000 — will throw in the towel and retire within the next 24 months. They say the truth will set you free. They also say one of the main reasons politicians lie is because the public doesn’t want to hear the truth, that people only want to hear what they want to hear.

But if Ontarians don’t soon wake up, and start demanding some honest answers from those in charge at Queen’s Park, I’m very much afraid we’ll all end up losers in this crazy game of “truth or dare” the Liberals insist on playing with Ontario’s doctors.

— Dr. Douglas Mark is Interim President of DoctorsOntario