Province, doctors to resume talks on fees
TORONTO—There’s new hope the Ontario government can reach an agreement with the province’s doctors after a rocky few months, Health minister Deb Matthews said yesterday.
The governing Liberals and Ontario Medical Association agreed late Wednesday to restart negotiations on a new fee agreement for doctors.
Talks between the province and the OMA, which represents 25,000 doctors, broke off earlier this year and the government made regulatory changes to cut Ontario Health Insurance Plan fees and premiums.
The OMA had said it offered to freeze doctors’ fees for two years and find an additional $250 million in savings, but Matthews rejected the proposal.
Matthews said she feels more confident they can reach an agreement together that will protect health care in the province while fighting a $15-billion deficit.
“We broke up for awhile,” she conceded, adding she wasn’t “enthusiastic” about imposing the fee cuts.
But the two sides continued to talk informally and “reality set in” for the OMA, she said.
It understands the province has a “fiscal challenge” and that it’s better to work with the government to resolve it than have it imposed.
“I think it needed some time,” Matthews reasoned.
“This is an unusual negotiation because we’re not talking about how much more we’re going to spend.”
In a letter to its members Wednesday, OMA president Dr. Doug Weir noted the government agreed to third-party facilitation and conciliation if needed.
It was a sticking point for the OMA, who said the government previously had refused all their requests to bring in a conciliator.
It’s not yet clear when negotiations between the OMA and the government officially will begin.