Tax changes may impact patient care


To the Editor:

The federal government’s proposed changes to taxes for private corporations could have a negative impact on patient care in Nova Scotia.

About 75 percent of the province’s physicians are incorporated as small business owners. If the proposed tax changes come into effect, they stand to lose between 10 and 30 percent of their take-home pay.

When faced with the prospect of this type of challenge, most businesses can offset their losses by raising their fees. But physicians have no way to raise their rates to offset the loss of income. That’s because their rates are set until 2019, as mandated in the current contract.

It is important to understand that when physicians were first allowed to incorporate, in 1995, the move was considered a trade-off — government allowed incorporation so physicians could supplement their earnings, rather than government raising rates or instituting pension plans. For years, incorporation has allowed physicians to plan for taxes, sick leave and retirement, while providing for their families.

The government’s consultation process is flawed because there has not been enough time to openly discuss the impact the proposed changes could have on physicians and their patients. Not to mention that fact that physicians and small business owners are being painted as tax cheats by the federal government.

Unilateral decision-making without respect for previously negotiated agreements — especially for those without pensions or sick leave — serves only to hurt an already overtaxed and burning out profession.

If the federal tax changes are implemented as proposed, doctors will look to the province for help in recovering the losses incurred. Without provincial assistance, physicians may move to other provinces or countries, reduce their workload or retire early.

Our provincial government is in the difficult position of either finding a way to help physicians or watch more doctors leave the province. Losing even a handful of physicians will have a direct impact on access, services and the health of Nova Scotians.

Nova Scotia can’t afford to lose more doctors. Our province has one of the oldest and sickest populations in Canada. Nova Scotian physicians are paid in the bottom third when compared to other provinces. Our province must be able to compete with other provinces to ensure that physicians stay in Nova Scotia and that we are able to successfully recruit to fill vacancies. While it’s important for the federal government to achieve their goals, the changes they have proposed will result in unintended consequences for our province. We must ensure that Nova Scotia is a desirable place for physicians to work.

Nova Scotia’s doctors put patients first. They work hard every day to support the health of their patients and to support vital hospital services. We’re concerned about the impact the proposed tax changes will have on our physician workforce and patient care in this province. On behalf of the province’s doctors and all Nova Scotians, Doctors Nova Scotia opposes these changes.

Dr. Manoj Vohra

President of Doctors Nova Scotia

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