Other speakers questioned such a comprehensive proposal. At each of the conferences, they raised the unpalatable prospect of state medicine. This was defined as a means of turning doctors into civil servants and making them subservient to bureaucrats rather than allowing them to function as independent professionals. For doctors who had served with the Canadian Army Medical Corps or who worked in provincial or municipal health departments, government service held few terrors. But all of the participants expressed support for fee-for-service medical practice and concern about the amount of charity work that doctors were performing. As Dr. John Ferguson, the Secretary of the Ontario Medical
Association, pointed out in 1929, 175,000 Ontarians received free medical treatment in the province's 150 public hospitals and, using a conservative figure of a $10 charge per patient, that added up to $1.75 million or a $400 per capita gift to the provincial government from the medical profession. Was this justified given the costs of medical training and practice? What should be done to maintain doctors' status as independent business people? Fear of government oversight would be a long-standing component of the profession's opposition to third-party participation in the doctor–patient relationship.