A Message from the ORA President, Dr. Jane Purvis
Re: Doctors against Covid #DoTheRightThing
When social distancing measures were implemented last month, the rheumatology community quickly adapted in order to provide virtual care to our very susceptible and immunocompromised patients. We were pleased to learn of new codes from OHIP that would allow us to call patients on the telephone in lieu of in-person office visits. It meant that rheumatology patients could remain in the safety of their homes but still access expert medical care in a timely fashion.
In mid-March, we were asked to hold off sending any of these billings to OHIP while they retooled their system to accept the new codes. We waited patiently, albeit anxiously, as our own expenses began to pile up and monthly rent payments came due. On Thursday, April 9 we learned that the delay in payment would stretch even longer. According to a statement from the office of Christine Elliott, Ontario’s Minister of Health, “The province expects to be ready to start processing claims in early May.” (Source: Toronto Sun – April 9). There are further murmurings that this is an ambitious estimate at best, including this April 16 article from CBC News: Ontario doctors may not get paid for telemedicine until July | CBC News.
This is a blow to myself and my rheumatology colleagues. We have risen to the challenge before us, but we will not be paid for over 3 months for our services? We have rent to pay, families to feed, and soaring overhead expenses to manage. We are committed to supporting our patients and Ontario’s healthcare system during this crisis, yet we are not being supported. I worry about my own state and that of my colleague as many of us cannot sustain under these conditions for much longer.
The ORA has until now enjoyed a healthy and respectful relationship with the Ministry of Health and Long Term Care. Our trust in this institution has been broken. We are so very disappointed in their treatment of the rheumatology community and all doctors who are providing virtual care during this pandemic.