Ontario medical body chief vows to help patients, doctors

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The new President of the Ontario Medical Association Dr. Virginia Walley brings with her a diversity of knowledge and experience . Dr. Walley, a laboratory physician working in Toronto and living in Peterborough, bean her term as President or the organization on Sunday; she brings with her experience gleaned from the many prior and varied leadership positions she has held in the health-care system.

“Doctors are encouraged that the government is talking about arbitration in order to achieve a fair and predictable physician agreement to strengthen the quality care for patients,” said Dr. Walley. “The Ministry of Health has unilaterally cut almost seven per cent from the budget that goes towards the necessary care doctors provide to patients, and this has left a significant gap between how much care will be funded and the needs of our growing and aging population.”

As the representative for Ontario’s 29,000 practising physicians, Dr. Walley is assuming the President’s role at a time that is challenging for patients and doctors. The provincial government is under-funding the health care system; physicians in Ontario have been working without a contract for more than two years and have faced unilaterally imposed cuts by the government.

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During her term, Dr. Walley will actively work to secure an agreement between Ontario’s doctors and government that includes binding arbitration so that there is neutral third-party whose final recommendations would be binding for both parties, if there is another impasse.

Advocating for patient access to the necessary medical care all Ontarians deserve and need will be a priority for Dr. Walley. Currently, the Ontario government is funding less than half of the annual growth of the health-care system, despite the fact that each year 140,000 new patients require medical care in Ontario.

Ontario patients are voicing their concerns about health care. They are doing their part to manage their own care and the care of their family members as best as they can, but they don’t see their provincial government doing its part,” said Dr. Walley. “Doctors can’t fix the health-care system alone – we need government to partner with us, so that patients don’t have to bear the burden of a broken system.”

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Originally from Deep River, Ontario, Dr. Walley was inspired to become a doctor by the dedication of the doctors she knew in her community. She sees medicine as a “noble calling” and has spent many years helping to improve the health-care system for both patients and physicians.  Dr. Walley is the past President of the Ontario Association of Pathologists, a former board director of the Canadian Medical Association, and has been a member of the OMA Board for 10 years. Dr. Walley is the 135th President of the OMA and the fifth women to serve in the role; she takes over from Dr. Mike Toth, a family doctor from Aylmer.

“Drawing on my experiences at academic and community hospitals, as well as in community settings, I am looking forward to helping Ontario’s physicians shape the health-care system of the future,” Dr. Walley said. “Ontario is home to world-class physicians and we have a tremendous expertise, combined with a commitment to providing health-care for all those in need. Patients deserve a system that is patient-centred, easier to navigate, technologically up-to-date, and that provides the full spectrum of care patients need – from prevention, through primary care, through complex specialty care.”

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Despite the challenges she faces, Dr. Walley will also focus on engaging with physicians and physicians-in-training in new ways by using social media and digital technology, and she will be encouraging more women to take up leadership in Ontario’s health-care system.

Dr. Walley trained in medicine at the University of Western Ontario; she has worked in laboratory medicine in Ottawa, Halifax, and Peterborough.  She previously held teaching positions at the University of Ottawa, Dalhousie University, and is currently appointed at the University of Toronto.  Dr. Walley now works as the Ontario Medical Director for LifeLabs.

The Ontario Medical Association (OMA) represents more than 34,000 physicians and medical students across the province. Ontario’s doctors work closely with patients to encourage healthy living practices and illness prevention. In addition to delivering front-line services to patients, Ontario’s doctors play a significant role in helping shape health care policy, as well as implementing initiatives that strengthen and enhance Ontario’s health care system.

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