Province leaves arbitration with the Ontario Medical Association


The provincial government withdrew the arbitration issue with the Ontario Medical Association, saying it lost confidence in the organization's ability to represent its members after some high-paid experts voted for the separation.

But the WCO still plans to participate in the process and argues that the provincial law allows arbitration to continue, even if one side leaves.

The Ford administration sent a letter to referee William Kaplan late Monday night stating that
The Ford administration sent a letter to Arbitrator William Kaplan late Monday saying he "has no confidence that the WCO can fulfill the outcome of any arbitration decision." (Rene Johnston / Toronto Star)

The WCO accuses the government of violating a legal agreement for a "binding arbitration structure" that the two sides signed last year. Most members of the WCO also voted in favor of the process.

Development is the latest obstacle in what has been a tumultuous five-year dispute aimed at getting a new fee contract.

It comes two weeks after a group of high-billing experts – faced with the possibility of rate cuts – voting for the separation of AOM. The group, which calls itself the Ontario Specialists Association (OSA), wrote to Health Minister Christine Elliott on November 30 and requested that the arbitration process be "immediately suspended until the specialists. "

The letter, a copy of which was obtained by Star, is signed by radiologist Dr. David Jacobs, who led the division. He is the vice president of the Association of Ontologists of Radiologists and a frank advocate of Premier Doug Ford.

The government negotiating team sent a letter to referee William Kaplan late Monday, saying he "does not have confidence that the OMA can comply with the outcome of any arbitration decision."

The letter, which was also obtained by Estrela, goes on to say: "Consequently, the Ministry of Health can not agree to the continuation of the arbitration procedure".

But a subsequent letter to Kaplan, the WCO, cites the Arbitration Act, which states that arbitration must continue, even if one of the parties does not appear, unless a "satisfactory explanation" is provided.

"It is our position that the hearings should proceed as planned," said the letter signed by attorneys Howard Goldblatt and Steven Barrett, who represent the WCO in the case.

"The (government) suggestion that it can unilaterally disrupt these procedures is unprecedented (and) an affront to the rule of law … which insists that the government is not above the law and must fulfill its legal and contractual commitments," he says. .

The letter goes on to argue that the arbitrator should not be aware of the government's "unfounded and wholly erroneous" suggestion that the WCO is unable to deliver the result of an arbitration decision.

The letter ends with: "We assume that the (government) and its council are aware of the possible consequences of their non-attendance."

It is not clear what these consequences would be.

The press secretaries at Ford and Elliott did not respond to the many questions contained in Star's e-mails on Tuesday.

For more than a week, Star has asked the government whether it will recognize the separation specialist group. All the government would say is that he sought legal advice.

On Tuesday, the OMA leadership sent a statement to the organization's 31,000 active members, calling the government's decision "shocking" and claiming it is "undermining the WCO's legal right to represent Ontario's doctors."

"The prime minister's electoral promises included fair treatment of doctors. Terminating the arbitration process … does not serve the interests of physicians or the 13.7 million patients we serve, "said the statement signed by OMA chairman Dr. Nadia Alam, chair of the board, Dr. Tim Nicholas and CEO Allan O & # 39; Dette.

"We know this will be disruptive to members, but we are moving quickly to manage the situation," he continues, noting that the WCO council and its legal counsel are planning to discuss next steps on Wednesday.

In the flurry of letters back and forth, Craig Rix, a lawyer representing the government, wrote to the WCO on Tuesday to say that the province wants to "have a broader dialogue" with doctors to address issues of representation and compensation and will be in touch with the New Year.

Experts who voted to be separated from the AOM represent 10% of all physicians and approximately 17% of billings.

Golblatt and Hicks wrote back, contesting the voting results – as many others did – and accusing that less than 5% of the profession voted in favor of the WCO division.

The stakes are high in the dispute. The government pays doctors more than $ 12 billion, or 10 percent of the entire provincial budget.

Winning a new contract is also important because it has a huge impact on how services are delivered.

Arbitration hearings began before the June election. They were already canceled once, a few days after the conservative's victory, because the new government wanted to try to reach a negotiated agreement. But talks between the new government and the WCO broke down in early October, prompting the dispute to return to arbitration.

Arbitration hearings were scheduled to resume on Saturday and end before Christmas.

Theresa Boyle is a Toronto reporter covering health. Follow her on Twitter: @theresaboyle

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