Delayed Payments For Virtual Care – How This Impacts Recently Graduated Rheumatologists

Delayed Funding for Virtual Care Puts New Rheumatologists at Risk of Closure, Affecting Patient Care During COVID-19

Every Ontarian has been affected by COVID-19, including recently graduated rheumatologists.

New rheumatologists have stepped-up to care for patients in challenging times. Managing immuno-compromised patients during a pandemic keeps them healthy and out of the emergency room or hospital ward.

This is our calling; we do it gladly. But this care is at risk if we cannot keep our office open – a risk that is especially high for new graduates.

New graduates have small and fledgling practices. We rely heavily on incoming new referrals to keep our practice running. Incoming referrals have decreased significantly, causing some of us to worry if we’ll have enough patients to keep our practice open in a few months.

New graduates carry the costs of running a medical practice without any accumulated capital. We’re starting our career with years of student debt. On top of that, we may be constructing new office space, covering office lease, and employing medical administrators and nurses. We bear these costs gladly as they help us care for patients. However, with only a short time in practice, we don’t have the accumulated capital to cover these significant costs if we’re being asked to work for free. Sadly, we may be forced to close our office and lay off employees: this will harm patients.

In the end, new rheumatologists are starting their careers at a vulnerable time. We love what we do, but we simply cannot look after our patients without proper funding. We will continue to work until we no longer can, and we will seek innovative and flexible ways to keep our patients healthy. The government needs to reciprocate and step up, innovate, and be flexible in kind. Otherwise, patients will suffer.

Dr. Yan Yeung & Dr. Thanu Ruban

Co-Chairs, Emerging Rheumatologists of Ontario Committee