I’ve had this coffee cup for at least a decade. I feel proud to drink out of it and it always makes me smile. I love my work. I don’t really consider it a “job” like most people would consider their job. I am very lucky to have been given the opportunity to study medicine. It was a long road to get into medical school. I spent 12 years in higher education after secondary school to become a doctor. I spent a lot of the bank’s money on tuition, rent, food and books. I didn’t know then how much money doctors made. It wasn’t even on my radar at the time.
When I started working most of my income went to paying down my massive school debt and trying to save for a house, not to mention paying the government in taxes. I started my family practice, I bought a house and got married and had 3 children. I have a mortgage, I still have school and maternity leave debt and I still have to pay the government their taxes. I run an office in a building that I pay rent, I have two receptionists who depend on the salary I pay them to live, and I have purchased all the office and medical equipment I need to run my clinic. I pay for the phone and internet coming into my office. I paid for the computers I use and the paper I print my prescriptions on. I guess you could say that I am a small business owner.
I am not paid directly by my patients for the majority of the work I do for them. I am paid by our government; and that government is waging war on me and my colleagues. They are cutting our fees for a third time in less than a year and there is talk of a “hard cap” on physician billings. It is vague and no dollar amount has been disclosed. If this “hard cap” is reached before the end of their fiscal year, there is a strong possibility that they (the government) will just not pay me for work I have already done, for patients I have already seen and treated.
What would you do if your employer said there was no money left in their budget and you simply weren’t going to get paid?
What would you do if your income supported others and you suddenly couldn’t afford to keep your business running? What if you didn’t have a nest egg put aside for just this kind of scenario and could manage business as usual?
I didn’t become a doctor to get rich. Honestly, that was the furthest thing from my mind. I have wanted to be a doctor for as long as I can remember. The wonder and awe of the human body captured my imagination at a very young age. Sadly, for me. there is nothing else I could do if I ever had to leave medicine. I take great pride in being able to educate my patients on how they can stay healthy. I feel privileged to be able to support them through birth, death and all that comes in between. I wish the majority of the public didn’t see us as money hungry. Most of us aren’t at all like that; we have all worked very hard and sacrificed a lot to be here and to be told by our government that we’re being greedy is insulting and unfair. Our population is aging and is going to need medical services above and beyond what we already have in place. The lack of forethought and planning for an aging population is terrifying. We, as physicians, can only do so much. Our system needs help and the way our government is approaching the problem might work in the short-term but the longer term issues will still be there, waiting for a solution. I fear there won’t be enough doctors by then to shoulder the burden. Where will that leave patients?