Ontario doctors urged to set timers to 5 minutes in protest over pay
Josh Dehaas, CTV Toronto
Published Saturday, February 21, 2015 8:49PM EST
A group of Ontario doctors says the government isn’t paying them enough, and they want patients to know.
To help spark a dialogue on the topic, one of those doctors, Dr. Douglas Mark, has begun setting a kitchen timer at the beginning of patients’ visits to his Toronto family medicine clinic.
After five minutes, the timer beeps and Dr. Mark tells patients that their “time is up.”
Although he reassures patients he won’t actually stop treating them, he wants them to know that five minutes is all the province will pay for, even when appointments take longer.
Dr. Mark is interim president of DoctorsOntario, a group that advocates for doctors. They are asking doctors to set egg timers or other alarms during all appointments, starting March 2.
“The government has chosen to make doctors the scapegoat for their inability to manage the province’s finances,” Dr. Mark wrote in a letter announcing the pressure tactic.
“This symbolic act is meant to dramatize the fact that OHIP only covers 47 per cent of the Ontario Medical Association’s recommended fees, which the government has chosen to cut by another 2.65 per cent.”
The Ontario Medical Association, which negotiates the fees doctors are paid by the Ontario Health Insurance Plan each time they see a patient, is also upset but doesn’t recommend its members join the protest.
“We have however encouraged members to provide patients with answers to their questions,” Dr. Ved Tandan, president of the OMA, told CTV Toronto in a statement.
“Ontario’s doctors will always put patients first and do what we can to limit the impacts of government cuts,” he added. “But make no mistake, there will be an impact on care.”
Dr. Eric Hoskins, Ontario’s Minister of Health and Long-Term Care, says doctors are not actually paid for the amount of time they spend with patients, but for “an episode of care."
It’s unclear how many doctors will actually participate, but it’s certainly getting attention in Dr. Mark’s office.
One recent patient said he was “stunned” when the timer started beeping five minutes into his consultation.