In a move that could leave thousands of Quebecers without access to dental care, dentists are threatening to pull out of the public health system amid tense and longstanding contract negotiations with the province.
Serge Langlois, the president of Association des chirurgiens dentistes du Québec (ACDQ), is asking for Premier Philippe Couillard to step in and remove Health Minister Gaétan Barrette from contract talks. He claims Barrette cannot be trusted during discussions.
“We don’t want these negotiations to be undertaken by using threats and intimidation,” he said.
The majority of 4,300 dentists that make up the association are ready to submit non-participation slips to withdraw from the public health system this week, according to Langlois.
Quebec covers the costs of dental care for children under 10 years old and for people living on social assistance. The move — which would deprive more than 620,000 people of subsidized dental care with the exception of emergency procedures — would come into effect in late August.
Quebec dentists have been without a collective agreement since 2015 and negotiations have been fruitless, said Langlois. He added the province’s latest offer is unrealistic and would result in a 12 per cent pay cut for dentists.
“We can’t accept that,” he said.
Barrette, for his part, said on Tuesday he was willing to go back to the bargaining table for a negotiating blitz in order to come to an agreement.
“The message today is it’s not necessary to threaten the vulnerable of our society, to cut services,” he said.
“That’s useless in my mind.”
Barrette added the association needs to bring a list with final demands and priorities in order for discussions to move forward — but Langlois insists that has already been done.
“I’m surprised that he said that we have to prioritize our demands because during the last meeting we had with them on Friday the 13th, we submitted our priorities to the table, to the people there,” he said.
—with files from Anne Leclair, Gloria Henriquez and the Canadian Press