Should Physicians be Activists?

Dr. Roland Wong is under threat of losing his license to practice medicine. He didn’t harm anyone. He helped people on social assistance get extra money for food.

The average Ontario welfare recipient gets $500 per month. The special dietary allowance program provided extra benefits of up to $250 per month to enable those with medical conditions to purchase more healthful food. An estimated 20 percent of people on social assistance rely on these extra benefits.

Wong, who specializes in occupation and community medicine, admits to completing about 15,000 special dietary allowance forms in one year. He not only signed forms for his own patients, he also signed them for people attending mass clinics arranged by anti-poverty activists.

Between 2001/02 and 2009/10, the cost of funding the special dietary allowance program rose from $6 million to $220 million. Claiming that the program was being “abused,” the province scrapped it and directed the police to investigate 2,300 recipients of this benefit.

Conservative city councilor Robert Ford, who is running for mayor of Toronto in October, filed a complaint against Wong with the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario. The College must now investigate whether Wong engaged in conduct that “would reasonably be regarded by members as disgraceful, dishonorable or unprofessional.”

Ford insists, “A doctor is there to be a doctor, not to advocate for the poor…You can’t have people in the medical field doing that.”

Wong views the complaint against him as politically-motivated harassment and refuses to be intimidated. At an April 6 public meeting and a July rally he protested government policies that promote homelessness, starvation, sickness and premature death in the richest province in Canada.

“Income level is the best predictor of health,” he said. “We have to invest in human resources – they are not to be wasted.”

Wong points out that cuts to social assistance in the mid-1990s saved the province $2 billion dollars, while the special dietary allowance restores only 10 percent of what was lost.

With regard to the charges against him, he stated, “I don’t know what will happen. But whatever happens to me, I will be happy because I’ve done something useful.”

Roland Wong embodies the spirit in which all physicians should practice medicine.

Watch the 15 minute video of Wong’s April 6 presentation.

Susan Rosenthal is a life-long socialist, retired physician, union member, and the author of POWER and Powerlessness (2006). Sick and Sicker: Essays on Class, Health and Health Care (2010), and Rebel Minds: Class War, Mass Suffering, and the Urgent Need for Socialism (2019). She can be reached at: Read other articles by Susan.

5 comments on this article so far ...

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  1. mary said on September 22nd, 2010 at 8:59am #

    All power to Dr Wong whom I watched on the video. He obviously cares passionately for his patients and their wellbeing and is prepared to stand up for them. I hope that he will be able overcome the bullying tactics of Ford who has the physical appearance of having a higher calorie intake than is necessary.

    I looked around the internet and saw that there is a minor political dynasty of Fords in Toronto, the father Doug and two sons Rob and Doug Jr.

  2. hayate said on September 22nd, 2010 at 9:32am #

    I’m shocked! A doctor who helps those in need, rather than inhabits the local exclusive country club golf course yakking about his investments. Organised zionism must be thoroughly appalled. Now wonder they set one of their quisling politicians after the man (conservative politicians in Canada are all zionist owned and operated quislings).

  3. Mulga Mumblebrain said on September 22nd, 2010 at 10:25am #

    Wong did the correct thing, so his conscience is clear. Being a morally upright person is nowadays the exception in the capitalist world, where the parasitic and psychopathic elite’s mentality of absolute antipathy towards other human beings (and the rest of existence outside the capitalist’s ego)has been relentlessly inculcated by generations of brainwashing. This indoctrination has not just been by mainstream media, now almost entirely in the hands of ruthless propagandists in the Murdoch mould, who employ vast armies of unscrupulous ideologues whose sole purpose in life is to foment fear,loathing and paranoia to suit their owners’ ends, but also by the advertising industry.This pernicious evil, a species of parasitism upon the parasitic system, has,in its efforts to stimulate pointless consumption of useless junk, through crude and vicious manipulation of peoples’ feelings of inadequacy and unworthiness (a form of spiritual molestation), has twisted the individual and collective psyches so grossly that greedy, self-interested consumption has been raised to the highest point of human existence. The infinitely avaricious, self-centred individual, brainwashed to see others as competition or enemies, is fertile ground for the promotion of racism, xenophobia and generalised hatred, as we see every day. Dr Wong apparently remains human, rather than robopathic, so the evil ones, the living dead whose souls have long since fallen to dust, will not rest until they have purged this non-conformist, and punished him for the effrontery of acting decently.

  4. rosemarie jackowski said on September 22nd, 2010 at 11:08am #

    Good article. Good topic. Here is a link to one of mine
    Right here in Vermont a doctor/dentist could be arrested for giving free humanitarian medical service. It took me a while to figure all of this out but now I finally ‘get it’. Maintaining the medical monopoly and restricting humanitarian care makes it easy to charge $1000 to repair a tooth filling.

  5. kalidas said on September 22nd, 2010 at 7:07pm #

    Tell me about it.
    Last year I pulled two of my own teeth.

    Since I really am not a masochist, what other reason could there be besides economics.

    (i have gums like an alligator)