I wrote the Premier, Minister Elliott and my local MPP on April 17 when I was tired and worried. I wrote again on April 23rd when I was angry.
I am angry that none of them responded until I called my MPP on April 28. I am angry that doctors are getting sick. I am angry that the government is withholding payments to doctors while other public workers are staying home or sitting fewer parliament sessions and still getting paid full salaries. I am angry that many doctors are ineligible for federal and provincial funding. I am furious that the Ministry of Health (MOH) has forced upon doctors a debt deferral program that we cannot opt out of.
The ill-conceived plan is for the MOH to make payday loans to physicians for May, June and July 2020 that is 70% of their average monthly billings. The physician will then be required to pay this back from December 2020 to March 2021. All eligible physicians will be forced to receive these payments despite none of us being consulted on the implications of this proposal.
What the MOH fails to realize is that the health system was working at capacity prior to COVID. Doctors pivoted to virtual patient care, at a decreased capacity, since this care is, generally, less efficient. Procedural based specialties have grinded to a halt. This has led to an enormous decrease in revenues that our clinics and hospitals rely on.
I am working long days providing virtual care, keeping patients out of ERs and hospitals, and I am nowhere close to 70% of pre-COVID revenues. The revenues I generate with virtual care are not enough to pay overhead and staff. When doctor offices and hospitals can safely return to pre-COVID operations, there will be no extra capacity for physicians to see more patients to make up the deficit in order to repay the 70% debt. The MOH is simply delaying the inevitable cash crunch for doctors.
Let me be clear, with the path the MOH is leading us down, a tsunami is coming that will obliterate the province's healthcare system. Waitlists will grow, clinics will close permanently, capacity will be lost and people will die prematurely because of the decisions the government is making today.
The solution is clear: provide revenue stabilization to doctors and not short-term loans we will struggle to repay. Pay doctors on time for the services they are currently providing to patients. Doctors are businesses that not only care for patients and keep Ontario healthy but businesses that drive the province's economy. We create jobs and support Ontario and Canadian industry. When is the government going to start recognizing that physician billings are used to pay for rent, utilities, medical supplies (many Canadian made), electronic medical records (many Canadian developed) and salaries of doctors, nurses, administrators and allied health professionals?
When Ontarians were asked to stay home to keep safe, doctors kept working putting themselves and their families in danger.
I have a duty to care. And right now I am expected to do so at a deficit. #DoTheRightThing
Dr. Maxwell Sauder