Local doctors concerned after provincial cuts
Dr. Devon Turner started his family medicine practice in Barrie a year ago and already has more than 1,300 patients.
While his practice is busy, the recent cuts to doctors’ fees imposed by the Ontario government have him worried about the future.
“The cuts will slowly chip away at the amount I’m getting for the care that I provide and I also still have a lot of loans I have to pay back from medical school, as well as just starting up a practice and those loans aren't going to go away."
The latest cut took effect last week, trimming the amount of money doctors can claim for their service by four per cent this year alone.
According to the Ontario Medical Association, 50 per cent of what doctors make goes to taxes and 30 per cent more is needed to cover the cost of their practices.
Turner has tried to absorb the cuts by taking on more patients and working at walk-in clinics, but he says eventually the cuts will have an effect on patients.
"People will notice appointments might be shorter, might by be harder to get into see me. That's because I’m taking in more patients than I probably should be looking after."
The OMA warns doctors will pack up and leave Ontario or retire early if they aren't paid properly and that would mean longer wait times and poorer care.
However, the province insists the cuts won't affect care, saying Ontario's family doctors are the highest paid in Canada and the money saved through these cuts will be used to pay for other health care needs.
"We're continuing to pay patients for every service they provide. We're just paying them slightly less to create that sustainable budget."
Dr. Brent Elsey has been a physician for 35 years and is currently training future family doctors in Barrie –a group he says already faces six figure debt from medical school. He says they will be impacted the most by these cuts.
"They already start off in a big hole and for them to receive cuts, with possible cash flow implications; I think they are really going to revaluate what they're going to do."
The OMA says it will continue to lobby the government to negotiate a different deal.