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Living in Tumultuous Times

Dr. Judith Plante

As I write this, we have just concluded our December meeting of Council, marking the only time in my presidency that I was able to meet in person with my fellow Council members to talk about the challenges and opportunities of medical regulation.

I was struck by how much I missed that human connection; the pleasure of making eye contact without the distance imposed by a computer screen. I was not alone in this sentiment and many colleagues expressed the same feeling throughout the meeting. The ability to have conversations virtually has, of course, made the pandemic bearable and allowed us to continue to do our work, but it has also left us feeling isolated.

“We recognize the toll these efforts are taking and the very real increase in physician stress and burnout.”

The news about a new variant creates increased uncertainty and reinforces that we are not yet at the end of the battle with COVID-19. I know what a huge toll this virus has taken on both our health care system and our psyches. Many colleagues are feeling broken and exhausted. How could they not? Yet, as professionals who have dedicated their lives to providing care, physicians continue to answer the call. I am so proud of my colleagues for their efforts, the sacrifices they make, and the long hours they have devoted to continuing to care for their patients despite the virus. We recognize the toll these efforts are taking and the very real increase in physician stress and burnout. We have stepped up our efforts, in collaboration with our health care partners, to address this.

As a result of the pandemic, the whole health care sector is dealing with the long patient queues for tests and procedures that have been deferred. In fact, we have an article in this issue about a study, commissioned by the Canadian Medical Association, that details how far off course the pandemic has pushed us. Managing this backlog will be hard and this College is committed to being a source of ongoing support in this endeavour. We understand the challenge and we are determined to collaborate with all partners to help address these issues.

By the time you read this letter, I will have concluded my year as President. I am proud of what we have accomplished during such turbulent times. We addressed issues of licensure for thousands of new physicians to ensure we got them up and working in the health system as quickly and safely as possible. We have been scrutinizing our own processes through an equity lens and, in this publication, we’ve examined biases within the health care system and their effect on who gets what kind of care. This important work must continue. We have also continued to review our policies and update them to give clear and relevant guidance to the profession, and we have worked with the Ontario government on the introduction of legislation that will bring physician assistants under CPSO’s regulatory authority.

“I am proud of what we have accomplished during such turbulent times.”

Additionally, we have begun modernizing our Out-of-Hospital Premises Inspection Program (OHPIP). The program was created more than 10 years ago, yet has had only minor changes since. Our intent is to align this important program with our right-touch regulation approach to ensure we are effectively serving the public interest for those who receive care in these facilities. You can learn more about these changes in this issue of Dialogue. 

I am pleased to be handing the presidency to the extraordinarily capable Dr. Janet van Vlymen. I wish Janet all the best. I would also like to take this opportunity to thank Council and CPSO staff for all their efforts and support during an unprecedented period for Ontario’s health care system. I remain humbled by how well we all pulled together as a team and got through this very challenging year.