Ontario Association of Gastroenterology (OAG)

Ontario Association of Gastroenterology (OAG)

May 17, 2012 09:32 ET

Ontario Gastroenterologists Object to Cuts to Professional Fees

Citizens most at risk from reduced access to screening and diagnostic services

TORONTO, ONTARIO--(Marketwire - May 17, 2012) - The Ontario Association of Gastroenterology (OAG) today added their voice to growing objections to the Government of Ontario's unilateral decision on May 7, 2012 to overhaul the fee structure for medical procedures and services provided by the province's doctors, saying it will be "bad news" especially for Ontarians seeking cancer screening.

"Our primary concern is for our patients," says OAG President Dr. David Baron. "After consulting with our members, the OAG and our board of directors believe the government's decision will have a serious and negative impact on patient care and access to medical screening, diagnostic and therapeutic endoscopy services in the province. We are urging the government to return to the bargaining table and work toward a negotiated settlement."

The OAG says the decision is ironic on two fronts. First, it conflicts with the government's Quality Action Plan, which specifically mentions enhanced colorectal screening and the transfer of procedures such as colonoscopies from hospitals to out-of-hospital facilities. Second, the Canadian Cancer Society reported last week that mortality rates for colorectal cancer are declining due to increased screening. Colonoscopies contribute significantly to this screening, but they are on the list of the approximately 40 medical procedures the fees for which have been cut 10% under the restructured system.

The OAG states that the cuts will hit gastroenterologists as hard as higher profile medical specialists. Currently, 100,000 of the colonoscopies performed in Ontario take place in inspected out-of-hospital facilities, which face mounting operating costs. The Ontario government does not contribute to these operating costs or the procedures performed in these facilities. Costs are covered through professional fees collected by gastroenterologists and surgeons who believe they should not have to subsidize the cost of important medical tests. However, under the new fee structure, they will be required to reduce by 10% the out-of-hospital fees they charge for colonoscopies and similar procedures.

The government cites advances in technology as one reason for the 10% reduction in fees. While new technologies have enabled greater efficiency for some medical tests, procedures such as colonoscopies are more complex than they were 20 years ago.

The OAG predicts that unless the government works with doctors to continue negotiating the fee structure, out-of-hospital endoscopy services will no longer be viable. Worse, the burden will ultimately fall on the citizens of Ontario, whose access to services will be reduced.

About the Ontario Association of Gastroenterology

The Ontario Association of Gastroenterology (OAG) is a non-profit association serving the practice of gastroenterology in Ontario. The OAG promotes, maintains and improves the knowledge and standards to promote optimal patient care. The OAG represents Ontario gastroenterologists in discussions, meetings and communications with other groups including the Ontario Medical Association, the Government of Ontario and other health professionals.

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