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Professionalism in a time of passionate debate

August 28, 2017

Bonjour mes colleagues! I have been seriously considering language and how we address each other after spending the past week at the CMA General Council meetings in Quebec City. The overarching principle is professionalism and concerns were raised about courtesy and respectful debate. 

A particular issue is the tone of our discussions over email and on social media. There was considerable discussion throughout the meeting about the proposed tax legislation changes. It is a complex issue and analysis is made more challenging because the details around some of the proposals have not yet been developed. These details are extremely important in determining how widespread the potential negative consequences could be for small businesses. Our membership is diverse and opinions are not all the same. This is a good thing overall, but when issues are contentious there is a danger that impassioned people arguing strongly from their perspective can be not only discourteous but downright rude and certainly not professional. This goes for both the majority and minority opinion on any issue. I have seen some among the significant majority opposed to the tax changes belittling the comments of colleagues who do not agree. I have also seen some comments from those advocating in favour of the tax changes that imply they are more fair and equitable physicians than the majority and somehow care more about patients. But neither side has a monopoly on the truth.

I would like to remind you all that when you post on Twitter and Facebook, no matter what your privacy settings might be, the information is potentially out there for all the world to see. It is never appropriate to denigrate individual physicians. It is not appropriate to insult each other. However this situation works out, we are all going to have to decide how to respond to any changes that are implemented and we are all going to have to work with each other afterwards. I trust we can continue to have impassioned debate and yet measure up to the high standards of courtesy and respect expected in our profession.

A number of our members have shared specific examples of how the proposed tax changes will potentially impact them. We are using these stories to inform our submission to government, and I will be using the information at two lobby events I will be attending along with other provincial reps and the leadership of the CMA. The first is a meeting with Finance Minister Bill Morneau and the other is a meeting in conjunction with the Liberal Women’s Caucus. Some physicians have given us permission to use their names, and over the next weeks I will be sharing these stories with you. Please keep these letters coming – send them to president@doctorsofbc.ca and send them to your MP. I truly believe that the voices of individual physicians heard across the country will help us succeed in influencing the decision-making on this issue.

Today’s story is from a rural colleague in my area who will face some hard choices that will affect the community in a significant way.


July 25, 2017

As per your email I am writing to you to outline my concerns re the federal government's proposed tax changes.
 
I am an Australian trained GP with C Section skills working in Fernie. I share a room at a 7 physician office with my husband who is also a GP and GPA and provides C Section coverage with me at Elk Valley Hospital. We have been here 4.5 years and incorporated in 2016. We are currently the only physicians providing C Section coverage in our community. We are also the only physicians accepting new family practice patients.
 
The proposed tax changes would most likely lead us to reconsider our plan to stay in Canada full time. We had planned to be here for another 9 years while our children finish school, but if our employment ceases to be financially viable we would return to Australia.
 
For our community that would lead to the closure of our maternity services and leave all new patients without a GP.
 
The cost of overheads, insurance, and receiving no holiday pay, with fixed remuneration for patient visits, was only financially worthwhile for us once we incorporated. This greatly influenced our decision to stay in Canada, as initially we had planned only to be here for 2 years.
 
Thank you for representing our concerns to government.

Dr Deena Case
Fernie, BC


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