Ontario Expected to Slash Physician Funding

When an Ontario Medical Association (OMA) agreement with the Province of Ontario expires on March 31, 2012, the Province is expected to reduce physician compensation to address growing costs.

Ontario currently spends approximately $10 billion a year on the Province’s 24,000 physicians, and health funding of $47 billion a year typically represents the largest line item on provincial budgets at 42 per cent .

The cuts may come in the form of wage freezes. The previous agreement had included a 5% global increase to the OHIP Schedule of Benefits on October 1, 2009, a 3% increase on October 1, 2010, and a 4.25% increase on September 1, 2011.

Ontario’s 2010 budget prominently featured wage restraint measures, including a three-year MPP salary freeze and two-year freezes for non-bargained employees. No funding was allocated for fiscal increases in any future collective agreements. The Ontario Public Service had already been reduced by five per cent in the three years before the budget.

Adam Radwanski of The Globe suggests that the Province could look for savings in the following areas:

  • increased emphasis on Family Health Teams instead of Fee For Service
  • tighter guidelines for referrals and prescription refills
  • reduced fees for some costly specialist procedures
  • greater requirements for hospital duties
  • remote physician services via telephone and Internet, and electronic health records

The 2010-2012 agreement with the OMA allocated $340 million for new programs that will not likely be reproduced in the next agreement.  The previous agreement did include funds for hiring an additional 500 licensed nurses to assist physicians in their offices through collaobrative health strategies like Family Health Teams

Depending on the success of these programs, greater funding for allied health staff could be perceived as a way to keep physician costs down.  Either way, physician funding is quickly being perceived as one of the more ineffeicient ways to deliver primary care.

 The Drummond Report, expected shortly, will likely frame the discussion further, especially highlighting the role of physicians with health institutions like hospitals. 

OMA Contract With MOHLTC – March 31, 2012

Omar Ha-Redeye is the Principal of Fleet Street Law, a full-service law chambers in Toronto.

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