Saturday , January 23 2021

Doug Ford tries to cancel arbitration sessions with Ontario doctors

The Ontario government cancels arbitration procedures with doctors in the province, which the medical association in Ontario denounces as "unprecedented" and "insult to the rule of law."

The province announced that it was suspending the arbitration sessions that are scheduled to end this month due to the accumulation of a medical profession in the province.

Last month, a subgroup of high-end specialists voted in an online referendum to leave OMA, an official negotiator for nearly 31,000 doctors in the province.

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The new association of Ontario experts said there was support from eight specialized groups of physicians and a mandate to call on the Ontario government to change the legislation that is currently preventing the province from negotiating doctors fees with non-OMAs.

OMA counters that less than 5% of the doctors in the province actually voted to join the divorce association.

"There is a clear public dispute over whether OMA is the exclusive representative of doctors in Ontario," said Craig Ricks, a lawyer at the Ministry of Health and Long-term Care (MOHLTC) in an e-mail to the head of the arbitration board on Monday. "MOHLTC has no confidence that OMA can achieve the outcome of any arbitration decision."

OMA dismissed this argument by telling arbitrator William Kaplan in his own legal letter that he was "unfounded and totally wrong" to suggest that OMA could not bring an arbitration decision. In any case, OMA lawyers claim that the government can not unilaterally terminate arbitration proceedings.

"We believe the government is trying to withdraw the reinforcement because it knows that arbitrage will mean a fair deal for doctors," he wrote to Nadia Alam, the president of OMA, in a letter to members Tuesday night.

Dr. Alam is out of the country and is not available for an interview. A spokeswoman for Health Minister Christine Elliott did not respond to the request for comment.

The Progressive Conservative government's attempt to cancel arbitration is the latest reversal in the almost five-year battle between Queen's Park and doctors without contract on 31 March 2014.

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The former liberal government won the madness of physicians when they unilaterally recovered some fees and frozen others as the two sides were unable to reach a fee.

Relations between the two countries began to shake last year when the government of Kathleen Wynn agreed to allow doctors access to binding arbitration. Doctors in Ontario have long argued that they were disadvantaged when talks came to a dead end because there was no mechanism for the dispute to be referred to a third party for the last word while the liberals were afraid an arbiter might give the doctors a strong wages, efforts to control health care costs.

Arbitration hearings began last spring. Since the progressive conservatives entered into force in June, they expanded OMA's olive branch, turning some arbitrage dates into negotiation days. The talks stopped and the arbitration was resumed last month.

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