A Time of Change

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Dr. Nancy Whitmore

The issue of physician burnout has been a growing concern for Ontario’s health-care system, and something that we at the CPSO were watching closely. But with the arrival of COVID-19, this became even more pronounced as the medical profession was pushed and strained like never before. This is why we chose to make physician wellness the cover story for this issue of Dialogue. The pandemic has taken a toll on everyone, but especially those health-care workers — including physicians — who are on the frontlines of this pandemic every day. I encourage you to read this cover story, and to share and discuss it with colleagues who may be fighting their own battles with burnout during these extraordinary times.

The CPSO has maintained operations and business continuity throughout the pandemic, with most of our staff working from their homes. Physicians continued to be registered; our call centre continued to answer questions from physicians and the public; we continued to communicate key information to the profession, and we worked daily with stakeholders across the health system. And while the pandemic has been difficult, it has also forced us to become more innovative and has pushed us rapidly toward a digital environment. Since the middle of March, our committees have worked virtually and we held our first virtual Council meeting at the end of May. The profession and patients have also adapted to a virtual care environment and you can read more about the evolving world of virtual medicine in this issue.

I want to thank each of you for your patience, commitment and flexibility over the past several months.

Nearly 1,500 physicians have participated in our new Quality Improvement program, and so far the feedback has been extremely positive. This move from a quality assessment to a quality improvement mindset aligns with life long learning and has put the principles of meaningful engagement and right-touch regulation at the heart of our quality management efforts.

Lastly, I want to touch on a very difficult subject that has been on our minds these past few weeks. The recent death of George Floyd in the United States has created a much-needed uprising across the world and brought the uncomfortable truth of racism, inequality and white privilege to the forefront of public consciousness. Medicine is, obviously, not immune to these concerns. Systemic racism and discrimination still very much exists in the field of medicine, on both the provider and the patient side. And diversity in medicine is critical to ensuring accessible, high-quality care. These issues impact not only the Black community, but also Indigenous populations, people of colour and LGBTQ+. I encourage all of you to continue thinking about these issues, to challenge yourselves and others, to listen to patients and colleagues when they discuss these concerns, and to move toward a more equitable system for all. These conversations may be uncomfortable, even disruptive, but they are key to keeping up the momentum for change.

February was Black History Month, and June is Indigenous History Month and Pride Month. We at the CPSO are committed to doing more to raise the profile of these important issues facing patients, students and physicians in health care. We will have more about this in our next issue of Dialogue.

In closing, I want to thank each of you for your patience, commitment and flexibility over the past several months.

Take care,