Last Saturday, May 2, 2015, Dr. Michael Toth was installed as the 134th President of the Ontario Medical Association (OMA). Mike is a comprehensive Family Physician from Aylmer, Ontario. Aylmer is a town of 7500 in Southwestern Ontario. He told the guests at his Installation Gala that his patients range in age from newborns to over 100 years old.
I got to know Mike as a Board member in 2009, just after his election as Physician Services Committee CoChair. Within a month of his election he resigned because one of the physicians at the Nursing Home where he is Medical Director could no longer work there and Mike was needed in Aylmer to look after his patients. That’s the kind of doctor and person that he is. To me, he was one of the most powerful people on the OMA Board, but his patients came first. His lesson stays with me and so I juggle my OMA responsibilities so that my roles as a wife, mother and doctor are not compromised. Just like Mike, or as much like Mike as I can be.
Consider now a second doctor, the Minister of Health and Long Term Care, Dr. Eric Hoskins. After completing medical school and residency, Dr. Hoskins worked as a humanitarian and a doctor in war-torn regions around the world. With his wife, Dr. Samantha Nutt, he founded War Child Canada, which seeks to help children in regions around the world affected by war. His work has influenced policy and has been far-reaching. He is an Officer of the Order of Canada. Now a Member of Provincial Parliament for St. Paul’s, a riding just outside Downtown Toronto, Dr. Hoskins must wrestle with the issues of health care at home in Ontario.
As a citizen and a doctor, I hope that Dr. Toth and Dr. Hoskins will have a productive relationship. The OMA and the Government of Ontario are currently disagreeing about how to manage physician services, but that shouldn’t stop the two doctors most visibly associated with those resources from being respectful and courteous with each other. Dare I say collegial? However, Minister Hoskins was noticeably absent from Dr. Toth’s Installation.
A lot of Past Presidents hang out at Presidential Installations and I was told that Minister Hoskins’ absence was unprecedented. I asked all the people who might know and no one could tell me the reason for the Minister’s absence. No Past President could ever remember the last time a Minster of Health did not attend the OMA President’s installation. In 2012, two days before the Government imposed fee cuts on doctors, Minister Deb Matthews took the stage at Dr. Doug Weir’s Installation and warmly wished him well.
The relationship between the Ontario Medical Association and the Ministry of Health and Long Term Care is broken for the second time in three years. “Our situation cries out for common sense,” Dr. Toth said in his address to OMA Council the day after his Installation. Mike Toth understands common sense. He also understands common courtesy. I was born in one small town and grew up in another. Believe me, if you don’t have common sense and common courtesy, you won’t manage with the neighbours, let alone your patients, who may represent one fifth of everyone in town.
I hope Minister Hoskins let Dr. Toth know personally why he couldn’t attend his Installation. Dr. Toth would understand as much as anyone if the Minister had other family or professional commitments. He would not have taken it personally that he was one of the only OMA Presidents whose installation was not attended by the Minister of Health – he’s not like that.
But this small town girl is still taken aback. I was born in an English-speaking town and grew up in a French-speaking town. In both official languages, I learned that common courtesy and common sense were as necessary as food and uncommon kindness and genuine respect were the currency that bought you a special place in the world.
I suspect Mike Toth is more forgiving of Minister Hoskins than I am. Once again, I will learn from him and remember that it’s absolutely necessary to curb my tongue and get on with the work at hand. But first, I’m going to say that my money is on the small town doctor being the person who can bring some common sense back to healthcare in Ontario.
It’s possible that living in the big city of Ottawa has addled my brain and loosened my tongue.