Quebec government and doctors brace for Bill 20 hearings

QUEBEC CITY – An explosive piece of legislation will land in MNAs’ laps next week. Bill 20 forcing doctors to work more hours or risk losing pay will be dissected in committee hearings starting Tuesday.

Health Minister Gaétan Barrette first tabled the bill on Nov. 28. In December, hundreds of general practitioners took part in emergency meetings in Montreal and Quebec City. They are outraged they would be required to take on a minimum of 1,000 patients or risk losing up to 30 per cent of their pay.

“The workload of a family physician in Quebec is 50 per cent higher than the workload of a family physician in Ontario or elsewhere in Canada,” said Louis Godin, President of the Quebec Federation of General Practitioners.

Barrette responded that on the contrary, 60 per cent of general practitioners in Quebec work less than 25 weeks a year.

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Gaetan Barrette is pictured in Quebec City, August 12, 2012.
Gaetan Barrette is pictured in Quebec City, August 12, 2012. Jacques Boissinot/The Canadian Press

On Friday, the Coalition Avenir Quebec (CAQ) predicted the war of numbers – and the emotion surrounding the issue – will make for an explosive debate at the National Assembly.

“We’ve talked about structures and governance, now we’re really heading into the crux of the matter – accessibility,” said the party’s Health Critic, François Paradis. “It’s an extremely important issue for Quebecers.”

The CAQ will suggest the minister instead adjust doctors’ pay according to the number of patients they see and change the law to allow doctors to delegate more work to paramedical staff. The opposition party will also ask that Bill 20 be split in two, because the other part of the bill – restricting access to in vitro – is equally important and needs to be thoroughly studied.

READ MORE: Quebec doctors say Bill 20 will jeopardize future of family medicine

“Our concerns are the ones that our members feel because they are part of the population, they’re the middle class, they want to have good health services,” said SPGQ union spokesperson Richard Perron.

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Bill 20 proposes that in vitro fertilization be limited to women between the ages of 18 and 42. And even then, only artificial insemination would continue to be covered by medicare. All other procedures would have to be paid by the patient upfront, and tax credits would be offered.

READ MORE: Opinion: Bill 20 will turn every patient in Quebec into a number instead of a person

The PQ accused the Liberals Friday of bulldozing through their reforms.

“Currently, in all corners of Quebec, people feel they are not being consulted, they are being bulldozed,” said PQ MNA Harold LeBel.

Hearings kick off Tuesday with the Quebec Bar Association. At least 50 groups will be heard over the next four weeks.


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