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Dr. Douglas Mark

Dr. Douglas Mark

Douglas Mark

Wynne’s spin on Ontario doctors not supported by the facts Add to ...

Dr. Douglas Mark is the Interim President of DoctorsOntario. Follow him on Twitter @DocsOntario.

They say that truth is the first casualty in war. Take those comments made late last week by Dr. Eric Hoskins, Ontario’s Minister of Health and Long-Term Care, suggesting that doctors’ salaries have risen 61 per cent since 2003, when the Liberals took over. It is a claim so fundamentally misleading – OHIP billings do not equal salary – that it calls into question the minister’s motives.

Or how about this one, from the ministry’s own news release:

“The Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care will implement 10 changes to physician services payments. These include changes to fees and payments wherever possible so that Ontarians are paying the right amount for the right services. Doctors will still be able to provide any and all services for their patients that they feel are required.”

Oh, really? And just how would that work, Mr. Hoskins? In my experience, less is never more. Less is always less. While you’re at it, could you also explain how cutting $580-million from the health care budget – like you’re threatening to do – is going to help improve the care our patients receive? If you can, you’re better than Houdini.

Still, our beef isn’t with Dr. Hoskins who, after all, is a colleague, and who clearly finds himself in a difficult spot. No, the real culprits here are Premier Kathleen Wynne and Treasury Board President Deb Matthews. No one with an ounce of common sense – not to mention years of medical training – could possibly have come up with such a harebrained scheme to manage our health care system.

No wonder our patients are so confused. Someone clearly isn’t telling the truth. Time for a little reality check:

- There are approximately 12,600 general practitioners in Ontario, 14,500 specialists, 6,500 residents and 3,400 medical students;

- Breaking those numbers down by gender, there are almost 17,000 male and slightly more than 10,000 female doctors. Average age is 51.3 years;

- Tuition for students entering their first year of medical school is typically $21,863 – a 339 per cent increase over tuition in 1997;

- On average, it takes eight to 12 years to become a doctor – a minimum of three years of undergraduate study at a university, three to four years of medical school, followed by two to five years in residency in a teaching hospital or clinic;

- Doctors must complete a minimum amount of continuing professional development courses and training throughout their careers, in order to maintain their license to practice medicine;

- Ontario’s nearly 28,000 doctors treat 320,000 patients per day – to put this into context, that’s almost the entire population of Iceland;

- Ontario’s population grows by 140,000 patients per year – again, to put this into context, that’s almost the entire population of Prince Edward Island;

- The number of seniors in our province is growing every year, putting even more pressure on an over-taxed health care system;

- Overhead – the cost of actually running a practice, including staff salaries, office space, medical supplies and office supplies – eats up approximately 30 per cent (or, on average, $130,000) of gross annual billings;

- Each doctor in Ontario contributes, on average, four full-time jobs in their community, $205,000 in GDP for Ontario’s economy, and $50,000 in tax revenues, spread out over all three levels of government;

Those are the facts. An inconvenient truth for the Liberal government, I know. But the truth, nonetheless.

All of which brings us to the consequences.

Over the past 11 years, under Dalton McGuinty and Ms. Wynne, the Liberals have blown billions of our tax dollars, trying to dig their way out of one boondoggle – or cover up one scandal – after another. All this money adds up, and could’ve paid for a lot of healthcare.

Now, I’m sure I don’t have to remind you what happens at the end of the month, when the rent is due and you’ve been reckless with your money. Because that’s pretty much what we’re facing here in Ontario. The landlord is knocking and we’ve got nothing for him, thanks to the Liberals.

So go ahead and blame the doctors. After all, the only thing we do is keep people healthy and save lives. To mention nothing of working overtime to shorten waiting lists, and generally keeping our leaky health care system afloat.

That’s not spin. It’s the plain truth. Something you won’t get from either the Premier or Ms. Matthews.

Disappointing, to be sure. But hardly surprising.

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