Dr. Virginia Walley named new president of OMA
Nicole Thompson, The Canadian Press
Published Sunday, May 1, 2016 10:38AM EDT
Last Updated Sunday, May 1, 2016 1:33PM EDT
TORONTO -- The new president of the organization representing 34,000 Ontario doctors and medical students says she won't return to negotiations with the government until binding arbitration has been put in place.
Dr. Virginia Walley, by day a laboratory physician -- "Sometimes we're referred to as the doctors' doctors," she said -- was named president of the Ontario Medical Association on Sunday.
It's been two years since the OMA has had an agreement with the Ministry of Health, and a year since they've been at the bargaining table. Both sides claim the other walked away from the table, and both say they're willing to return -- under certain circumstances.
Walley said Sunday the OMA won't return to the table to discuss an agreement until Health Minister Eric Hoskins puts binding arbitration in place.
As outlined in the Ontario Labour Act, binding arbitration is a "quasi-judicial" process for dispute resolution, where an independent third-party -- an arbitrator -- decides on the terms of an agreement after listening to both sides. Then, both sides are bound to follow that agreement.
Police officers, jail guards and corrections officers are among the groups who negotiate using binding arbitration in Ontario.
But Health Minister Eric Hoskins says the government is "willing to discuss mediation/arbitration at the negotiation table, but it cannot be the only item on the agenda."
"There are important issues that must be part of formal negotiations," Hoskins said Sunday in a statement.
Hoskins has said the government wants to highlight that the fee schedule has not kept pace with technological changes that allow some specialists to bill way above the $368,000 the average Ontario doctor bills.
But Walley said the OMA doesn't want to talk about binding arbitration at the bargaining table -- the group wants it to be put in place so it can return to negotiations with some sort of assurance the ministry will act.
"We run the risk of the same situation reoccurring," she said. "The government may just unilaterally impose its programs, its wishes, the same way it's done over the past couple of years."
"When we've reached an impasse about specifics about one program or another, they've essentially picked up their toys and gone home. That's a power imbalance that's not fair."