There is so much online right now about the tentative Physician Services Agreement – some of it fact and some of it not – one wonders what else could be said. If you’ve come to this thinking that the Chair of the Ontario Medical Association Board is going to say anything about the tentative Physician Services Agreement that is controversial, you may as well go back to your reading, or Twitter, or just looking after patients. I have resisted writing anything to this point but I have been speaking with many doctors in the past month and the Psychiatrist in me cannot help but ask, “How are you managing?”
How are you coping with the tension of being in significant disagreement with your colleagues? The current situation has stressed a lot of people out and I am hearing the word “engaged” when what doctors really are is “angry”. Personally, I am managing by seeing a lot of patients (No wait list in my program) and by spending time with friends and family, grateful that I have these people in my life. I will not compromise my family or my work for any circumstance.
I also do my very best to be responsive to those doctors who reach out to me, whether they are voting “Yes” or “No”, to answer their questions carefully and respectfully and to make sure they understand the facts.. As I have tweeted many times, my goal is to present a “balanced view of a less than perfect tentative Physician Services Agreement to valued colleagues”. I am managing by remembering what I love about my life and work and medicine.
It helps. My lovely, engaged young patients follow me on twitter, use my public facebook page and stay informed about what is happening. It is easy to focus on them and their families. They thrive on the attention and following up on the suggestions I’ve made facilitates their progress. They are endlessly forgiving when the Electronic Medical Record at my hospital doesn’t quite tell me their test results. They are excited about my new job as the Clinical Director of Youth Psychiatry at my hospital and even more excited when I ask what changes they would like. They will ask, “But Dr. Beck, how about this fight about doctors’ pay? Aren’t you worried about that?” “I am,” I answer, “Very much. But you getting well means so much to me that I stop worrying.”
At home, my children, husband and friends are watchful. Someone finally jokes about “the elephant in the room”. It’s a psychiatric joke and I am very clear in my own mind that these people who, amazingly, love me after all I put them through deserve the best of me and my attention. I ask them to tell me about their summer since everyone can guess what my summer is like.
The discord between doctors at this time in Ontario is the worst byproduct of this agreement. I will not be a part of it and I am heartened by how many of my colleagues agree with me. I am writing this listening to the blessedly normal sounds of a summer evening: a neighbour mowing his lawn with his old push mower, the kids next door squealing as they run under a sprinkler to cool off, my son dropping by to pick up leftovers. I am labelling the maple blueberries I made yesterday and hoping I don’t get called in overnight to the hospital.
On Sunday, August 14, 2016, I will go to the Allstream Centre to vote “Yes” to the tentative Physician Services Agreement. On Monday, August 15, 2016, I will get up, go for my walk around the Experimental Farm, have breakfast with my husband and go do my job at my hospital. The result of the vote will not change the essentials of my life or who I am. I will continue to work for the doctors in my region and in Ontario, no matter the result of this vote.
I challenge my colleagues: Will you do the same? Will you review the material provided about this agreement? Will you do as your Board members did? Will you give it serious consideration and vote as you see fit? I am voting “Yes”. This agreement is, as I’ve said, not perfect but I believe that doctors can make healthcare better by being at the table.
Even when it’s difficult, I work with my patients, I do my best to be a good friend and mother and wife. I’m going to stay at the table with the government. Will you do the same?