The province has pulled out of arbitration with the Ontario Medical Association, stating they have “lost confidence” in the organization that represents doctors after a number of specialists recently split from the group.
But the OMA charged Tuesday that the government is violating its legal obligation in arbitration which was supposed to resume Saturday in the almost five-year-old contract dispute over what doctors can bill the province for services.
The government’s negotiating team sent a letter to arbitrator William Kaplan on Monday evening, saying it “lacks confidence that the OMA can deliver on the outcome of any arbitration decision.”
The letter, a copy of which was obtained by the Star, goes on to say: “Consequently, the (health ministry) cannot agree to the continuation of the arbitration proceeding.”
The latest development comes two weeks after a group of high billing doctors — faced with the prospect of fee cuts and led by a supporter of Doug Ford’s — voted to split from the OMA. The group, which calls itself the Ontario Specialists Association (OSA), wrote to Health Minister Christine Elliott on Nov. 30 and requested that the arbitration process as it relates to them be “immediately suspended pending the extraction of the OSA specialist groups,” according to a copy of the letter obtained by the Star.
The letter was signed by radiologist Dr. David Jacobs, who has spearheaded the split. He is the vice president of the Ontario Association of Radiologists.
Late Tuesday, the OMA sent a communiqué to members, charging, “the government is … trying to undermine the OMA’s legal right to represent Ontario’s doctors.”
The communiqué accused the government of ignoring its “legal and moral obligations to participate in a fair and independent binding arbitration process.”
The two sides signed off on an agreement for binding arbitration last year after the OMA membership voted in favour of the plan.
“The government’s actions ignore its legal and moral obligation to participate in a fair and independent binding arbitration process, undermining the foundation of any meaningful partnership between us,” the OMA communiqué charges.
More to come.
Theresa Boyle is a Toronto-based reporter covering health. Follow her on Twitter: @theresaboyle