------ Why are physicians deprived of Covid-19 sick benefits?
The OECD, March 20, 2020, asserted, “By ensuring that sick workers can afford to remain at home until they are no longer contagious, paid sick leave helps to slow transmission of the virus.” It goes on, “Extending paid leave to non-standard workers, including the self-employed, would include most MDs." Of note (ex-Minister of Finance) Bill Morneau now wishes to become secretary-general of this organization.
After enduring major financial losses, physicians are returning to a “new normal’ as operating rooms, hospital clinics, and private offices open. However, as schools, restaurants, and bars also reopen there may be a “second wave” this fall or winter. Most physicians remain economically unprotected.
Quebec and New Brunswick cover 100% of lost income, if a physician is forced to self-isolate or contracts COVID-19. PEI, Newfoundland and Labrador, Nova Scotia, Saskatchewan, and the Yukon offer similar coverage. Most British Columbia physicians are covered (up to age 70) by a government-funded Doctors of BC Physicians’ Disability Insurance Plan. This includes quarantine or COVID-19 illness from day one. Only Ontario, Alberta, and Manitoba fail to cover their physicians.
Older physicians cannot qualify for private disability insurance. Even for those who do, there is usually a waiting period of several weeks.
Clearly there is a need for governments to show appreciation and respect to physicians by, at minimum, covering their lost income if they are forced into self-isolation. Some provinces would find it difficult; Ontario's projected deficit is $38.5 billion (triple last year's).
Therefore, Ottawa should send sufficient funds to provide physicians with sick leave not dependent on age, and also income stabilization, such as was agreed to by Saskatchewan, Quebec, Nova Scotia, PEI, and Newfoundland. If we are truly “all in this together,” then all practicing physicians in Canada deserve benefits when off work due to the coronavirus. They should not be deprived of these because of their age, pre-existing illnesses, or because they live in certain provinces.
Former Finance Minister Morneau pledged, “We have the capacity to help businesses ... or individuals if they find themselves off work.” He promised, “We will not put a cap on what will solve the problem.” It is time for Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland to translate Morneau’s words into action, both in fairness to physicians and to help control the pandemic.
Premier Legault should put this topic on the agenda when the Council of the Federation meets in Quebec City this fall.
Charles S. Shaver, MD