Ontario doctors closer to legal action against province
The Toronto Star reports that Ontario’s doctors may be forced into taking legal action following the government’s refusal to agree to a binding dispute resolution mechanism to resolve a dispute over fee cuts.
The report quotes Steven Barrett as suggesting that the government “might want to reconsider its ‘ham-fisted’ approach to the ongoing dispute over fee cuts, not only because the OMA has a ‘respectable’ legal case, but also because doctors’ support for medicare could be jeopardized.”
Labour lawyer and constitutional expert Steven Barrett said the OMA could make some sound legal arguments, should it go ahead with a court challenge.
It could argue that the Canada Health Act contemplates that physicians should be entitled to some independent process to determine compensation, given that they are prohibited from extra-billing and practising outside the publicly funded system, he said.
As well, he said doctors have a “respectable, legal constitutional argument” because of a recent Supreme Court ruling that “essential” public sector workers who cannot strike have the right to independent arbitration.
Physicians should have the same freedom-of-association protection, Barrett said, acknowledging that while they are not government employees and not “essential” workers, regulatory constraints nevertheless make it difficult for them to strike.
“(Mediation-arbitration) is a legitimate request of physicians, given that they are limited to practising within the public health system and that other essential workers (such as nurses) have some form of arbitration,” he said.
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