Quebec’s health minister was at the Lakeshore General Hospital on Monday to unveil a new regulation that aims to improve access to healthcare for the province’s English-speaking minority.
The regulation creating a provincial access committee is the product of a three-year collaboration between English-language rights advocates and the health minister.
“At the end of the day, the only rights you ultimately have is if it’s written in an access plan you can sue on it because it’s a real right,” lawyer Eric Madoff said.
Maldoff heads the Quebec Community Groups Network (QCGN) Health and Social Services Committee, one of the two groups who helped draft the new regulation.
“It took three years because he wanted to have a text that [Maldoff] could sue me upon,” Health Minister Gaétan Barrette joked.
The regulation is set to be adopted by Cabinet members on Wednesday. Members of the new provincial access committee will be selected by the health minister with a short list provided by the QCGN and the federally-funded Community Health and Social Services Network (CHSSN).
Access committees for Anglophones have been around since the mid-eighties, but advocates claim they’ve been diluted over time by public servants and union leaders, and are no longer run by members of the English-speaking community.
Bill 10 and Barrette’s reform wiped out many institutional boards of directors and in many cases, silenced the voices of Quebec’s English-speaking minority.
“All the partners have changed with the structural reform, so people have lost their bearings a bit, some confusion of ‘where do I go if I need this service or that service?’,” said Kathleen Weil, the minister responsible for relations with English-speaking Quebecers.
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The goal of the revamped provincial access committee is to restore representation and increase accountability.
“They also have a responsibility to look at the quality of the services and monitor or observe and make recommendations,” Maldoff said.
“The challenge is really up to our community. Are we gonna sit back and complain, or are we gonna roll up our sleeves take the challenge and get involved.”
It’s expected at least 200 positions will be up for grabs on the new provincial and regional access committees. There’s still no word on the exact funding, but there’s already talk about the changes many expect in the new access plans.
“That goes to what language consent forms are available in – post-operative treatment forms, all those things where people go home with a piece of paper telling them what drugs to take and when – this stuff has to be available in the English language,” Maldoff said.