February 1, 2016 6:34 pm
Updated: February 2, 2016 11:36 am

Battle brewing between MUHC surgeons and health minister

WATCH ABOVE: Just days after promising to put education and healthcare first, the Quebec government is once again under fire for budget cuts - this time at the MUHC. Global's Anne Leclair reports.

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MONTREAL – Just days after promising to make education and health care a top priority, the Quebec government is once again under fire for budget cuts at the McGill University Health Centre (MUHC).

In a letter to his colleagues, the MUHC’s chief surgeon sounded the alarm about having to slash an estimated five per cent of surgeries due to budget cuts.

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“The government has not backed down on our funding reduction,” wrote Surgeon-in-Chief Dr. Gerald Fried.

“We will have a reduction of approximately 1,000-1,500 scheduled cases per year.”

The plan to reduce the number of surgeries stems from the fact that dozens of beds are currently being closed at the MUHC to respect an agreement signed between the hospital and the Quebec government back in 2007.

“They approved that plan. They approved it, they signed it and the MUHC has been built and designed accordingly,” insisted Health Minister Gaétan Barrette.

The Health Minister is blaming doctors for blowing the problem out of proportion and argued many are reluctant to move their services to other hospitals in the community.

“It’s about who will move and some doctors, as we speak today, aren’t happy about that but that’s not my issue,” said Barrette.

“My issue is patients.”

The MUHC is supposed to be a facility for complex cases only, meaning from now on, patients needing elective surgery can expect to wait longer, or even to be turned away to first-line care facilities in their community.

“We need to change the way we operate,” said Richard Fahey, Director of Public Affairs at the MUHC.

“Our mandate has been clearly established in our clinical plan to be tertiary and quaternary care.”

Patients’ rights groups worry the reduction in surgeries will lead to longer waiting lists and treatment delays, ultimately pushing people to the private sector.

“For minor illnesses, don’t go to  theMUHC because you’ll probably get referred to another unit elsewhere in smaller or more community hospitals,” said Paul Brunet of the Conseil pour la protection des malades.

Doctors first warned of reduced access to the MUHC last spring, as they foresaw the impact of budget cuts.

Patient rights advocates are giving Barrette until May, one year after the reform, to re-evaluate the true impact of ongoing cuts to Quebec’s public health care system.

“It’s unfortunate. We built mega-hospitals with billions of dollars and we can’t fill it up with appropriate treatment for patients who need it,” deplored Brunet.

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