It has been a stressful time for our profession and our professional organizations. For the past three years, our government and the Ontario Medical Association have not been able to come to a physician services agreement. During this period, the Ontario government proposed changes, dramatically transforming the landscape for health care - all without meaningful input from family physicians, the very people who form the cornerstone of the health-care system. As a result, physicians feel devalued, now more than ever, faced with fee cuts, despite the presence of ever-increasing costs in running their practices.
Among the most important privileges we earn in serving as physicians is respect – of our patients, our physician-colleagues and the public. Historically it has been the respect that we have earned from the public that has given physicians a moral authority extended to few other professions.
Respect is an essential component of professionalism and underpins the dignity, and civility with which we conduct ourselves as we treat our patients and engage our colleagues.
Unfortunately, media reports over the past several weeks have publicized the disrespectful verbal and written attacks by some physicians toward other physicians around contract negotiations in Ontario. Most notably, the Toronto Star has described a spate of vicious name-calling and threats taking place on social media.
While the media attention focused on the bad behavior of a few, it does not reflect the majority of the profession. As President of the OCFP and as someone who has been involved in the organization for many years, I am constantly inspired by the way in which many family doctors have been working together in their communities, grappling with differences of opinion, and respectfully encouraging positive dialogue to address pressing challenges in our clinical practices.
For me, the February 27th Toronto Star article prompted a reflection on the tone of the discourse. I wish that I had more quickly identified those occasions when the words expressed had moved past strongly felt feelings and into the realm of unprofessional, personal, crude attacks. For all of us – as individuals, as a profession, and as part of the society as a whole – this is a time for moral courage. Moral courage means taking responsibility, having respect, and doing the right thing. I believe that in this situation it means standing up and calling out damaging actions, and ensuring that, going forward, we never give conduct that demeans others a free pass.
While our profession cannot ignore the stressful backdrop for these incidents, neither can it excuse these hurtful actions. I commend all those family physicians who respectfully and directly identified and addressed disrespectful communication and behavior – thank you for your moral courage.
Negotiations between the Ontario Medical Association and the Ontario government are set to resume, and we are certain to hear divergent opinions once again. Healthy dialogue is the hallmark of a constructive conversation, and I encourage family physicians to be part of the important discussions taking place.
At this pivotal time for health care, divisiveness and disrespect will not serve us. To achieve our shared goal of a coordinated, comprehensive, health-care system we need to come together to listen and challenge one another. That does not mean always agreeing with the opinions of our colleague, but it does mean thoughtful dialogue, well-presented arguments, and respectful attention to the views of others. It will be important to remind each other that all of our perspectives have something to offer as we seek solutions to our current challenges.
At the OCFP we recognize that the diversity of our members – your varied interests, experiences and ultimately, perspectives – is one of the strengths of our profession. In the current challenging landscape, we will continue to assess issues impacting family medicine and primary care, offer information that supports honest discussion, and support the educational needs that are identified as important for health-care system change. We will endeavour to reflect and articulate your collective views clearly and, when needed, emphatically. It is from this foundation of moral courage, civility and respect that we can help ensure that any system changes will enable us to continue delivering high-quality care to our patients.
I welcome your comments and thoughts: email@example.com