Well that didn’t take long.
After a few weeks of bluster, the Ontario government has walked away from bargaining with the province’s doctors and imposed a retroactive fee schedule that rolls back fees affecting 4,500 different OHIP services.
That includes a four-year 11 per cent rollback on fees paid for 250 diagnostic radiology tests that the government claims are justified by improved technological efficiency.
Fees paid for cataracts are being similarly rolled back from $441 to $397.75.
Fees paid for eye injections for retinal disease will be more than halved over four years, from $189 to $90.
The government is rolling back available tests, such as echocardiograms before routine non-cardiac surgery and limiting use of CT scans and MRIs.
There was no question Deb Matthews had intended to go further than simply freezing the fees – something the Ontario Medical Association (OMA) had offered at the outset of bargaining.
Not surprisingly, the government did their best to portray doctors as overpaid, noting their compensation had increased by 75 per cent since the McGuinty government came to power in 2003. They made note of 407 specialists who made more than $1 million last year.
Claims that Ontario doctors were the best paid in Canada contrasted with a ranking the OMA noted from the Canadian Institute for Health Information (CIHI), which placed the province’s doctors in seventh place.
“Finally we learn the truth from the government: protecting patient care means eliminating programs and cutting fees; a wage freeze means dramatic cuts to fees and programs, and negotiating fairly means walking away from the table and imposing cuts,” OMA President Dr. Doug Weir said in a press release this afternoon that was long on vitriol and short on any proposed job action.
However, the OMA did warn that changes to diagnostic testing will impact the ability of a cardiologist to detect and treat serious heart disease and increase waits.
Patients will also wait longer for medical care to treat blinding conditions like macular degeneration, glaucoma and diabetes.
They say waits for CT and MRI scans will resemble those of the 1990s.
The government says the rollbacks will save $338.3 million in 2012-13.
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