Some Ontario physicians put time limit on patient visits to highlight government cuts

Ontario doctors are sending an abrupt message to their patients about cuts to healthcare services and funding by the provincial government.

At some offices, signs are posted indicating patient visits can only last 15 minutes —; so patients are asked to keep their questions and concerns down to one or two issues.

The signs are not meant to deter patients from visiting their doctor, but instead are meant to send a strong message about Ontario’s healthcare system.

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Dr. Douglas Mark, the interim President of DoctorsOntario, told Global News the time limit is a simple tactic to illustrate the time crunch doctors are faced with due to ongoing healthcare cuts.

“The government is rationing healthcare. We have half the hospital beds we need. We need 50 per cent more doctors right now,” he said.

“There are people waiting everywhere for access to emergency departments and specialists —; so doctors are doing this as a form of survival.”

Since March 2014, Ontario doctors have been without a deal with the province. They say the doctors are becoming a dying breed, with many retiring and others shutting down their practices because they can no longer afford it.

A note on a physician’s door in Toronto recommends patients only see their doctors for 15 minutes and limit their questions to two issues or less.

Angie Seth/Global News

“Doctors do have overheads and patients don’t remember this and therefore are paid a certain amount to see a patient and the overhead costs more than actually seeing the patient and how can that be a worthwhile profession to stay in?” Mark said. 

“The government really likes to dump on us and treat us like dirt, but I think our patients should treat us like gold. We are tired, we are suffering 80 per cent burnout and that is the reality. And the younger doctors have a huge debt load now. $150,000 debt load is not uncommon, plus the overhead, plus trying to make a living.”

But the Ontario Liberals say they are committed to keeping the province healthy and rather than making cuts, they are making significant advances in providing quicker and better accessibility to healthcare for everyone.

READ MORE: Doctor claims fee cuts may push physicians out of Ontario

“The reality is that, thanks to our investments, there are more doctors and nurses practicing in Ontario than ever before and growing at a rate that exceeds population growth,” Health Minister Eric Hoskins said in a statement to Global News.

“We’re committed to building on those investments. There is no limit set by OHIP on the number of medical issues that may be dealt with during a patient’s visit to a physician or the time allotted for each visit. There are no limits to the number of patients a physician can see and physicians will be compensated for every service they provide.”

READ MORE: Ontario government complains about ‘out of control’ doctors’ billings

But Hoskins said individual physicians determine their own office policies, while the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario (CPSO) is responsible for governing the practice of medicine.

Groups like DoctorsOntario say they are ready to hash out a deal with the province, however with MPPs on summer hiatus, those discussions won’t be happening at least until the fall.

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