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A portrait of Dr. Catherine Ross standing in a laboratory setting
August 8, 2018

Better relationships with doctors means better care

By Dr. Catherine Ross, pathologist, and member of Hamilton Health Sciences’ Physician Hospital Partnership

A few years back, an email from Hamilton Health Sciences’ lead doctor popped up in my inbox. He was launching a new committee to explore ways to improve relations between the hospital and its doctors and was looking for people to join. I jumped at this opportunity. Not necessarily because I thought the relationship was bad, but because I thought it could use some help.

Committee strengthening relationships

For those who don’t know, in Ontario, most doctors don’t work for the hospitals where they practice. They bill the government directly for their services. While not intentional, the absence of an employer-employee relationship has often allowed doctors’ input to be overlooked. This is common at hospitals across Ontario. In my 10-plus years at HHS, I wouldn’t say physicians have been completely excluded, but we haven’t always been included. Our expertise is always considered when it comes to patient care, but less so for operational matters. That email told me change was happening.

Our committee, the Physician Hospital Partnership, has been working since 2014 to understand the issues, and figure out solutions to strengthen this important relationship. We are making progress. For example, we worked to adjust hospital budgeting processes to require physician input, providing a platform for physician advocacy on how money gets spent on the units.

More physician-hospital interaction

We’re also creating opportunities for more interaction between doctors and hospital leadership, to build trust and to share ideas. HHS executive leaders regularly attend medical department meetings to have open and honest conversations about the realities of care, both on the frontline and in the administration. Last year, we held a summit which brought all parties together to figure out how to improve hospital decision making. We’re currently figuring out how to put some of these ideas into practice to provide value to our doctors.

It’s a great time for physicians to speak up and have a greater say in your hospital.

There’s plenty of work in this area still to do and there are many opportunities for physicians to get involved. Ultimately, better physician-hospital relationships mean better care for patient. The hospital is listening. It’s a great time for physicians to speak up and have a greater say in your hospital.