Wednesday, August 9, 2017

The Venn Diagram Of DOOM!

It's all my fault. Now look at the mess we're in.

Being a doctor is no cakewalk. It's bloody, it's smelly, the training can be murder, and the administrative headaches are driving otherwise dedicated MDs into depression, burnout, and an increasing desire to leave the profession for good.

Canadian docs have been especially hard hit in recent times. Their professional autonomy and standing as a self-regulating profession have been stripped away. They're struggling to to provide service in remote communities because of completely inadequate resources. Just when things are looking up at the provincial level, it seems the OMA has fallen into chaos once more. Worse still, the federal government has threatened to make incorporation a waste of time and money, upending many doctors' financial planning strategies and leaving their ability to keep their clinic doors open in doubt. Then factor in embarrassing coverage in the press - me and my big mouth - being a Canadian doctor is about as far from okay as it gets nowadays.

Doctors aren't taking these issues lightly, of course. In the name of #TaxFairness (go and look it up on Twitter, it's a thing), the profession is doing everything it can to keep the feds' tax grab from going ahead, from social media campaigns, to op-eds and blog posts, to old-fashioned meetings with their local Members of Parliament.

Still, there's only so far a profession can be pushed, and the straw that broke the camel's back was the unkindest cut of all, a stunning betrayal by the doctors' very own national representative body, the Canadian Medical Association (CMA):

Yes, it's that scourge of the public sector, a vaguely worded diagrammatic outline of strategic objectives, some including the word 'patient' no less!

In these troubled times, is it really appropriate for a (powerless) national medical association to shift its focus beyond the profession itself? There's a limit to how far someone can be pushed, right?

So the MD community is pushing back, or at least pushing back without sitting in on the tedious meetings where these sort of toothless decisions and statements are put together. Some docs, understandably, have cancelled their membership in the CMA in protest. Others have directly confronted the CMA leadership online. And others, after getting extraordinarily worked up this past (three-day, summer) weekend, collaborated to put together this online petition:

Sign the Petition

We, the undersigned, believe that the CMA should re-focus its strategy to defend and advocate for physicians so that physicians can then defend and advocate for excellence in patient care.
It took a few tries to get the wording just right, to get its point across whilst remaining politically correct. In fact, the petition remains true to the oldest traditions of medicine, by printing the words enshrined in the oldest surviving text of the Hippocratic Oath. What says "politically correct support of doctors" more than swearing an oath in the name of pagan deities, implied opposition to (now legally protected) medical assistance in dying, and explicit opposition to abortion?

Since enthusiasm for the petition was explosive over the weekend, there will almost certainly be enough e-signatures to bring the issue to the fore when the CMA Council meets in the coming days. Whether the petition or even the resignations come to anything is anybody's guess. The Big Kahunas of medical associations will be the first to acknowledge that major shifts in strategy and culture take time and energy to get right, and even more time and energy to make people happy.

Will there ever come a day when the drama ends, when doctors can ply their trade, earn a living, and be able to focus on their jobs instead of political nonsense? If there's only one thing we can take away from the never-ending twists and turns, it's that you never can tell.

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