Mud-slinging between Ontario's physicians surfaced on Sunday during a heated town-hall-style meeting over the group's tentative contract.
The Ontario Medical Association's general meeting was followed by a vote on the Physician Services Agreement (PSA) reached by the government and the OMA, which represents the province's 42,000 doctors.
A third-party tabulator was counting the votes and did not anticipate releasing results until Monday, an OMA spokeswoman said.
The contentious four-year deal would increase Ontario's $11.5-billion physician services budget by 2.5 per cent a year, to $12.9-billion by 2020, and allows doctors to co-manage the system with the Ministry of Health.
But detractors, led by the Concerned Ontario Doctors group, argue that the deal fails to cover rising patient costs, with a 2.5-per-cent increase amounting to only a 0.5-per-cent increase after 2-per-cent inflation.
"This divisiveness is so disheartening," Andrea Moser, a family physician in favour of the agreement, said at the meeting, which included doctors, medical students and retirees.
Students have been "bullied, maligned and called naive" for supporting the deal, said Jon Gravel, a representative with the Ontario Medical Students Association.
Mr. Gravel's remarks underscored a generational divide among the meeting's 800 attendees, with older physicians on the "no" side admonishing the idealism of their younger peers.
The Liberal government imposed fee cuts for some doctors' services last year, but the new agreement promises no more unilateral cuts over the four years.
Some doctors are also angry that the OMA failed to get agreement on binding arbitration, although the association will continue to fight for that right in court.
After the meeting, OMA president Virginia Walley acknowledged the frustration of doctors, but hoped members would ratify the agreement and move on.
"I have every confidence that our profession will come together," regardless of the outcome, she said.
It was the OMA's first general meeting since 1991, after the association faced mounting pressure from dissident members. About 33,000 Ontario doctors were eligible to vote, either in-person at the meeting or by proxy.
With a report from The Canadian Press