Investing in Cardiology
In Ontario the issue of appropriate financial compensation for doctors is often raised as part of the government’s focus on controlling or cutting the cost of healthcare. Cardiologists are often singled out as high-income earners and derogatory terms used. The entire membership of the Ontario Association of Cardiologists vehemently disagrees with these characterizations. Cardiologists might be paid relatively well compared to the overall population and all occupations, but the question should be “are they paid fairly and appropriately”?
- Cardiologists are specialists at the front line in the battle against heart disease, the number one killer in Ontario. Their investment in education is significant beyond what is required for basic medical school. It takes at least 15 years of post-secondary school education before a cardiologist can practice and the need for ongoing education never stops. With rapid developments in cardiac care technologies, cardiologists are constantly involved in highly specialized ongoing education to stay current with appropriateness guidelines and procedures. Cardiologists need to be compensated commensurate with their lengthy and ongoing investments in the knowledge and tools that save the lives of Ontarians every day. Without appropriate funding for the services they provide including technical fees, cardiologists will not be able to fund the operation of their clinics, denying the public equality of access to cardiac services. At the same time, the current shortage of cardiologists in Ontario will only continue if new, aspiring cardiologists face ongoing, inappropriate funding.
- Cardiologists are acute care specialists. Their responsibilities are significantly greater than a primary care provider and they deal with life and death issues daily. The stress levels are high as are the daily hours required to provide world-class care. Many cardiologists routinely work 80 to 100 hours a week.
- When health-care salaries are compared, they are not always comparing apples to apples. Looking at a cardiologist’s gross salary is not an accurate view. Specialists, particularly in community practice, fund their entire practice out of their gross income. That means that they pay their own rent, lease or buy testing equipment and pay salaries for support staff. This is not an issue for doctors working out of a hospital where overhead is paid by the hospital.
Ontario Cardiologists through the OAC believe in appropriate testing and affordable health care. They do not agree with cold-hearted, uninformed cuts to health care based on simple financial spreadsheets. Cardiologists need to be compensated appropriately in order to continue to deliver world-class cardiac care for Ontario.
“I can’t speak to how much cardiologists should be paid because I’m frankly not sure what that number should be, but I can tell you they’re working hard for it. And they’re well trained for it. And that they accept in their lives a great deal of responsibility and accountability for what they do”
Dr. Tony Sanfilippo
Cardiologist, Professor & Associate Dean, Undergraduate Medicine Program, Queen’s University
“So I think we have to take a step back and look at the day-to-day routine of the physicians taking care of us and understand that we’re working hard to take care of our patients. We’re getting paid for our experience, our expertise and our many years of training”.
Dr. Beth Abramson
Cardiologist, Director Cardiac Prevention and Rehabilitation Centre & Women’s Cardiovascular Health in the Division of Cardiology, St. Michael’s Hospital.
“I usually spend about 12 or 13 hours a day on on-call weeks in hospital and then get home and invariably will be calls throughout the night about patients. And because I’m on call for transplant, we may have calls for sick patients in other hospitals that need to be transferred in for assessment for transplant, or calls about potential organ donors for patients who are waiting for transplant. So it’s a very busy week. On call I usually expect to work about 80 to 100 hours.”
Dr Heather Ross
Cardiologist, Professor of Medicine at the University of Toronto, Director of the Cardiac Transplant Program and the Ted Rogers and Family Chair in Heart Function
“My biggest concern with health care funding is the way it’s structured for us specialists, particularly in community practice. We fund our entire practice out of our income, and if the government removes certain funds that support the technical aspects of testing, then basically we would not be able to do the testing and we would not be able to provide proper diagnosis and surveillance to our patients”.
Dr Joel Niznick
Cardiologist, MD, FRCPC, Managing Partner of the Ottawa Cardiovascular Centre
“One of the reasons cardiologists have high gross billings is because we have procedures that we do in our offices, but in order to offer those procedures we have to purchase fairly expensive equipment and have very highly trained technologists to operate the equipment and they’re not cheap”.
Dr. Rajan Chetty
Cardiologist, MD, FRCPC (Fellow of the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada)