Tax changes may im­pact pa­tient care

Truro Daily News - - OPINION -

To the edi­tor:

The fed­eral gov­ern­ment’s pro­posed changes to taxes for pri­vate cor­po­ra­tions could have a neg­a­tive im­pact on pa­tient care in Nova Sco­tia.

About 75 per cent of the prov­ince’s physi­cians are in­cor­po­rated as small busi­ness own­ers. If the pro­posed tax changes come into ef­fect, they stand to lose be­tween 10 and 30 per cent of their take-home pay.

When faced with the prospect of this type of chal­lenge, most busi­nesses can off­set their losses by rais­ing their fees. But physi­cians have no way to raise their rates to off­set the loss of in­come. That’s be­cause their rates are set un­til 2019, as man­dated in the cur­rent con­tract.

It is im­por­tant to un­der­stand that when physi­cians were first al­lowed to in­cor­po­rate, in 1995, the move was con­sid­ered a trade-off — gov­ern­ment al­lowed in­cor­po­ra­tion so physi­cians could sup­ple­ment their earn­ings, rather than gov­ern­ment rais­ing rates or in­sti­tut­ing pen­sion plans. For years, in­cor­po­ra­tion has al­lowed physi­cians to plan for taxes, sick leave and re­tire­ment, while pro­vid­ing for their fam­i­lies.

The gov­ern­ment’s con­sul­ta­tion process is flawed be­cause there has not been enough time to openly dis­cuss the im­pact the pro­posed changes could have on physi­cians and their pa­tients. Not to men­tion the fact that physi­cians and small busi­ness own­ers are be­ing painted as tax cheats by the fed­eral gov­ern­ment.

Uni­lat­eral de­ci­sion-mak­ing with­out re­spect for pre­vi­ously ne­go­ti­ated agree­ments — es­pe­cially for those with­out pen­sions or sick leave — serves only to hurt an al­ready over­taxed and burn­ing out pro­fes­sion.

If the fed­eral tax changes are im­ple­mented as pro­posed, doc­tors will look to the prov­ince for help in re­cov­er­ing the losses in­curred. With­out provin­cial as­sis­tance, physi­cians may move to other prov­inces or coun­tries, re­duce their work­load or re­tire early.

Our provin­cial gov­ern­ment is in the dif­fi­cult po­si­tion of ei­ther find­ing a way to help physi­cians or watch more doc­tors leave the prov­ince. Los­ing even a hand­ful of physi­cians will have a di­rect im­pact on ac­cess, ser­vices and the health of Nova Sco­tians.

Nova Sco­tia can’t af­ford to lose more doc­tors. Our prov­ince has one of the old­est and sick­est pop­u­la­tions in Canada. Nova Sco­tian physi­cians are paid in the bot­tom third when com­pared to other prov­inces. Our prov­ince must be able to com­pete with other prov­inces to en­sure that physi­cians stay in Nova Sco­tia and that we are able to suc­cess­fully re­cruit to fill va­can­cies. While it’s im­por­tant for the fed­eral gov­ern­ment to achieve their goals, the changes they have pro­posed will result in un­in­tended con­se­quences for our prov­ince. We must en­sure that Nova Sco­tia is a de­sir­able place for physi­cians to work.

Nova Sco­tia’s doc­tors put pa­tients first. They work hard ev­ery day to sup­port the health of their pa­tients and to sup­port vi­tal hospi­tal ser­vices. We’re con­cerned about the im­pact the pro­posed tax changes will have on our physi­cian work­force and pa­tient care in this prov­ince.

On be­half of the prov­ince’s doc­tors and all Nova Sco­tians, Doc­tors Nova Sco­tia op­poses these changes.

Dr. Manoj Vohra,

Pres­i­dent of Doc­tors Nova Sco­tia

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