The Ontario government and the Ontario Medical Association (OMA) have reached a tentative agreement, announced Monday, July 11 through identical press releases from both groups. The tentative agreement has received support and recommendation from the OMA Board of Directors and will be voted upon by the province’s physicians. Ontario physicians have currently been working without a contract for over two years.
Though the full document will not be released until after the OMA Council’s ratification vote on August 6th, some details have been made public.
The agreement contains increases to the Physician Services Budget. These increases include targeted funding for new physicians coming into practice and annual utilization increases due to population growth and aging. Each year, approximately 140,000 new patients require medical care in Ontario. The government will also provide one-time investments in each year of the agreement that will be targeted to support priorities.
The release indicates that these annual increases are within the government’s fiscal plans, though it is silent on the actual value of the increases. Previously, the government had been proposing flat-lining the overall Physician Services Budget.
In a further change to the structure of funding, the government and the OMA would co-manage the Physician Services Budget. This change would give the OMA a role in deciding jointly with the Ministry how money is allocated and spent. The release points to both parties being able to identify savings, update fee codes, and account for technological change. There has been some controversy recently over technological changes that do not lead to fee code updates and result in unusually high billings from some specialists.
The OMA and the Ministry will also be working together to jointly select a permanent facilitator to assist in management and to be used if needed to provide a binding resolution to disputes. This is not the binding arbitration that the OMA had been calling for, but a significant change for Ontario physicians. In October 2015, the OMA launched a charter challenge against the Ontario Government for their constitutional right to a binding dispute resolution mechanism. Though the government indicated in April 2016 that it would potentially be prepared to agree to binding arbitration, the challenge continued. The current Charter challenge will continue despite this new dispute mechanism in the tentative agreement.
Today’s release highlights the OMA and the government’s commitment to access to primary care. They plan to work together to implement the Primary Care Guarantee, ensuring that every Ontarian who wants one has a primary care provider. They are also committing to improving availability of same day or next day visits for urgent conditions and physician coverage on evenings, weekends, and holidays.
Since February 2015, the Ontario government has unilaterally cut funding for physician services by almost seven per cent. The Financial Accountability Office (FAO) of Ontario, which provides independent analysis of the Province’s finances, recently released a report showing that the province was only funding half of the growth in the health care system.
The Ontario Medical Association represents more than 34,000 physicians and medical students in the province.
A PDF version of this summary can be found below:
Ontario-OMA Tentative Agreement