Ontario’s doctors, who have been without a contract for three years, have reached a tentative agreement with the government to secure binding arbitration – a sticking point in their long dispute with the province.
The Ontario Medical Association said Thursday that the tentative deal means the two sides will negotiate future physician services agreements and if they can’t reach a deal they will go to mediation, then binding arbitration.
“After several years of unilateral government actions against doctors, the OMA and Ontario’s doctors have been pressing the government to agree to binding arbitration, in order to ensure we have access to the same fair and independent process afforded to all other essential service providers,” president Shawn Whatley said in a statement.
Premier Kathleen Wynne called the tentative agreement “an important milestone and a first step towards renewed discussions for a new physician services agreement.”
“Our priority is to reach an agreement that will allow Ontario’s doctors to continue their important work and make sure that people across our province have access to a high quality, responsive health-care system that is sustainable for generations to come,” she said in a statement.
OMA members are set to vote on it on June 17.
The Liberal government angered doctors in 2015 by imposing fee cuts for some services, and had previously threatened to act on its own again if it couldn’t reach an agreement with the OMA.
Doctors roundly voted down a proposal last summer that would have increased the approximately $12-billion physician services budget by more than $1 billion but also included $200 million in certain fee cuts.
The OMA has dealt with internal turmoil since then, with some doctors upset that not only had the association endorsed that deal, but also that it had been in talks with the government without doctors’ knowledge.
Doctors dismissed another government proposal last year, saying it was just a rehash of the previous offer, and have made vague threats of job action since then.