James Swan, M.D. F.R.C.P. (C) F.A.C.C.
President, Ontario Association of Cardiologists
First and foremost, the Board of Directors of the Ontario Association of Cardiologists (OAC) offers its deepest appreciation to all cardiologists for their hard work, professionalism, and dedication to serving patients with heart disease over the past year, especially since the onset of the COVID-19 outbreak. Whether working in an academic health sciences centre, a community hospital, an outpatient ambulatory clinic, or in solo practice, Ontario’s cardiologists deserve recognition and support for maintaining patient access to essential cardiac care during this time of tremendous uncertainty.
As Ontario continues on the path to recovery, there are many questions that remain such as:
- How will outpatient ambulatory cardiology clinics safely resume patient services and catch-up on the large backlog of deferred diagnostic studies created by the COVID-19 outbreak?
- What is being done to address the significant waiting lists for hospital-based cardiac procedures?
- Will cardiologists be able to access personal protective equipment (PPE), at competitive prices, to meet the needs of their patients and staff?
- What protocols must be followed when dealing with patients who have tested COVID positive previously?
- Will OHIP’s virtual care fee codes be maintained?
- Will the Ministry of Health’s advance payment program loan be modified to ensure that cardiologists can continue to provide essential services beyond fall 2020?
- How will the Echocardiography Quality Improvement (EQI) program’s move from CorHealth Ontario to the Institute for Quality Management in Healthcare (IQMH) affect echocardiography facility accreditation?
- As the Ontario Medical Association (OMA) and Ministry begin the next round of contract negotiations, what is being done to ensure cardiology fee codes are supported?
Addressing these questions is where the OAC plays a vital role. As a voluntary professional organization, separate and distinct from the OMA, the OAC works tirelessly to shape the direction of cardiologist-led patient care in the province through strong advocacy, professional leadership, and partnerships with standards development and accreditation organizations such as CorHealth Ontario and IQMH. Our mission is to make Ontario the best place to practice cardiology and receive high quality cardiac patient care.
As we enter the 2020-21 membership year, we are excited about the prospect for achieving success on the organization’s following priorities:
- Ensure sufficient government funding is allocated to reduce cardiac patient waitlists and ensure support for cardiologist-led patient care.
- Seek modifications to the Ministry’s COVID-19 advance payment program to ensure cardiologists can continue to provide essential services beyond November 2020.
- Allow cardiologists to continue to provide virtual consultations to patients by maintaining the appropriate OHIP fee codes indefinitely.
- Provide cardiologists with access to stable, reliable and cost-effective sources of personal protective equipment for patients and staff, and other supplies and medical equipment.
- Ensure the integrity of the EQI program is maintained now that it is under the responsibility of the Institute for Quality Management in Healthcare.
- Ensure fair treatment of cardiologists within the upcoming OMA-Ministry contract negotiations.
- Support the unique needs of specialists through our ongoing involvement in the Ontario Specialists Association.
The OAC will continue to be a strong proponent of genuine, comprehensive reform at the OMA in 2020-21. We need an OMA that is accountable, transparent, responsive and fair to all members. This is especially true for those physicians that comprise small sections, like the Section on Cardiology.
The OAC is small compared to many health care professional organizations but, for 25 years, our Association has maintained a strong presence on the Ontario health care landscape. Our efforts on behalf of patients and members have helped shape provincial funding, policy and regulatory decisions. To continue having this kind of impact, our membership needs to be strong and involved.
The OAC’s Board of Directors would like to thank all OAC members for the confidence that they have bestowed upon it during these troubled times in Ontario. We look forward to working on their behalf in the coming weeks and months to create the conditions necessary for them to practice effectively and improve the lives of patients with heart disease.
With kindest regards,
James Swan, M.D. F.R.C.P. (C) F.A.C.C.
Ontario Association of Cardiologists