Ontario doctors take province to court over fees

Tue Jun 12, 2012 4:37pm EDT
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By Claire Sibonney

TORONTO (Reuters) - Ontario doctors, frustrated with the provincial government's plan to curb their fees as it cuts its deficit, said on Tuesday they would challenge the changes in court, arguing that the ruling Liberals have not negotiated in good faith.

The Ontario Medical Association, which represents the doctors of Canada's most populous province, is applying to the Ontario Superior Court of Justice for a review of the government's negotiating tactics and a reversal of fee cuts.

"Here in Canada, everyone is afforded protections under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. This includes doctors," said Doug Weir, president of the Ontario Medical Association.

"It's deeply disappointing that the government has devalued the role of physicians to the point where we are forced to take such a drastic step."

The dispute is the latest hurdle for debt-strapped provincial governments like Ontario, for whom health care is their biggest expense by far. The province earlier this year cut medical fees by a total of C$340 million ($330 million) as part of an effort to balance its budget by 2017-18.

Ontario Health Minister Deb Matthews said last month that the fee cuts on dozens of procedures were only 80 percent of what the province needs to meet its fiscal target.

The OMA said the Ontario government rejected several of its offers, including one equivalent to a 2.5 percent fee cut to physicians.

It cited a British Columbia case where the Supreme Court of Canada struck down a wage freeze, ruling that the right to freedom of association included the right to bargain collectively.   Continued...