This prob­a­bly won’t end well

Mass OMA res­ig­na­tions leave doc­tors in dis­ar­ray

The Hamilton Spectator - - COMMENT - BOB HEPBURN

The On­tario Med­i­cal As­so­ci­a­tion is in to­tal dis­ar­ray af­ter the dra­matic res­ig­na­tion this week of its en­tire ex­ec­u­tive team — and that’s bad news for pa­tients.

The mass res­ig­na­tion has left the union, which rep­re­sents On­tario’s 34,000 doc­tors and med­i­cal stu­dents, with its big­gest in­ter­nal cri­sis in more than 30 years and with no pres­i­dent or pres­i­dent-elect.

Worse, it has opened the door wide to a rad­i­cal Tea Party-style takeover of the OMA that sees doc­tors fight­ing doc­tors, in­creased moves to de­feat the Wynne gov­ern­ment in the 2018 elec­tion, and more power for Con­ser­va­tive party op­er­a­tives within the or­ga­ni­za­tion. For pa­tients, this could mean big trou­ble. That’s be­cause a rad­i­cal­ized OMA is ex­pected to step up threats of job ac­tions by doc­tors, such as re­duced of­fice hours or ro­tat­ing shut­downs of hos­pi­tal emer­gency de­part­ments, as they push for a new wage con­tract with Queen’s Park.

“This is a sad day,” Dr. Richard Reznick, dean of the fac­ulty of health sci­ences at Queen’s Univer­sity, wrote in an on­line blog af­ter the ex­ec­u­tives quit Mon­day, just a week fol­low­ing a non-con­fi­dence vote by the OMA’s gov­ern­ing coun­cil. “What has tran­spired can­not be good for the pro­fes­sion,” Reznick added.

The OMA in­fight­ing stems from the union’s fail­ure to se­cure a wage agree­ment with the Lib­eral gov­ern­ment. The last con­tract ex­pired three years ago. Last sum­mer, OMA mem­bers soundly re­jected a ten­ta­tive deal backed by the OMA ex­ec­u­tive team.

For more than a year, rad­i­cals within the OMA have worked openly to oust the ex­ec­u­tive team, which they de­cried as in­ef­fec­tive.

Two weeks ago, the OMA’s 260-mem­ber gov­ern­ing coun­cil voted 55 per cent in favour of a non-con­fi­dence mo­tion in the ex­ec­u­tive, but failed to gain the two-thirds ma­jor­ity needed to oust the six-mem­ber ex­ec­u­tive team.

The dis­si­dents, many of whom sup­port pri­vate two-tier medicine, ar­gue their real mo­ti­va­tion isn’t more pay for them­selves. Rather, they claim they are ad­vo­cat­ing on be­half of pa­tients who are suf­fer­ing be­cause the Lib­er­als “are driv­ing health care into the ground.”

Few peo­ple are buy­ing that ar­gu­ment, though. Bob Rae, the former On­tario NDP pre­mier, tweeted this week that the “OMA is a union fight­ing for higher in­comes for docs. Pe­riod.”

An­other driv­ing force for the dis­si­dents is their de­sire to de­feat the Wynne gov­ern­ment in the next elec­tion. So­cial me­dia post­ings make it clear they are tar­get­ing Health Min­is­ter Eric Hoskins in par­tic­u­lar, while prais­ing Con­ser­va­tive leader Pa­trick Brown.

Con­ser­va­tive op­er­a­tives have also been ad­vis­ing the dis­si­dent groups in re­cent months, with at least one or­ga­nizer an­gling for a top OMA job.

Al­ready, the OMA is get­ting mo­bi­lized for the 2018 elec­tion. With a slo­gan of “No Safe Seats,” the union will launch an or­ga­nized cam­paign in all 124 rid­ings with the goal of mak­ing health care a top elec­tion is­sue. What’s next for the OMA? First, mem­bers will vote be­tween Feb. 15 and March 7 to elect the 260-mem­ber coun­cil, which serves a one-year term. Hard­line mem­bers are al­ready lined up as can­di­dates for th­ese spots. The coun­cil will elect the new pres­i­dent and pres­i­dent-elect.

Sec­ond, the new OMA ex­ec­u­tive will try to re­open ne­go­ti­a­tions with Queen’s Park on a wage deal. Th­ese talks will al­most surely col­lapse, pri­mar­ily be­cause Hoskins re­fuses to agree to bind­ing ar­bi­tra­tion as a pre­con­di­tion for the talks to re­sume. The dis­si­dents have made that a pre­req­ui­site for any ne­go­ti­a­tions.

Third, once the talks fail, the rad­i­cal­ized OMA could then launch job ac­tions.

The best hope for pa­tients in the com­ing months is that OMA mod­er­ates will man­age to hold some sway within the or­ga­ni­za­tion.

Given the suc­cess the hard­lin­ers have en­joyed in driv­ing the ex­ec­u­tive team out of of­fice, calm and mod­er­ate may be the last thing pa­tients see from the em­bat­tled OMA for a long time.

Bob Hepburn’s col­umn ap­pears in Torstar news­pa­pers.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Canada

© PressReader. All rights reserved.