July 26, 2018 5:18 pm
Updated: July 26, 2018 7:11 pm

‘It will not be possible’ for Quebec dentists to withdraw from public system: Barrette

Quebec association of dental surgeons president Serge Langlois speaks to the media, Thursday, July 26, 2018 in Montreal. Langlois has filed the paperwork for 2,000 dentists that would start the process of its membership leaving the province's public health network.

Ryan Remiorz/The Canadian Press

Quebec Health Minister Gaétan Barrette says the province will not allow dentists to pull out of the public health system amid tense contract negotiations.

“I signed a decree that will prevent children and vulnerable patients in this province from having access cut by dentists,” he said on Thursday.

The move comes as the province’s dental association filed non-participation slips on Thursday to withdraw 2,000 members from RAMQ.

READ MORE: Quebec dentists ready to leave public system as contract talks drag on

In Quebec, the province covers the costs of dental care for children under 10 years old and for people living on social assistance.

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If dentists pull out of the public plan, it would deprive more than 620,000 people of subsidized dental care with the exception of emergency procedures.

“We have to put pressure on the government,” said Serge Langlois, the president of the Association des chirurgiens dentistes du Québec (ACDQ).

He said the withdrawal will only come into effect next month on Aug. 25, which gives the government plenty of time to make a deal.

“I hope we won’t reach this stage,” he said.

It has been a long and tense negotiating process between the province and dentists, who have been without a collective agreement since 2015.

Langlois said the province’s latest offer is unacceptable and would result in a 12 per cent pay cut for dentists — but Barrette insists dentists have not been clear with their demands and priorities when meeting at the bargaining table.

Earlier this week, the association asked for Premier Philippe Couillard to intervene and remove Barrette from contract talks. Langlois said he didn’t want negotiations to be “undertaken by threats and intimidation.”

READ MORE: Quebec surgeons, anesthesiologists get bonuses for arriving to work on time

In his announcement on Thursday to impose a special law to ensure services are maintained, Barrette said he would not allow the province or patients to “be held hostage based on negotiations.”

“It will not be possible for the dentists to unilaterally withdraw from the public system,” he said.

Langlois argues forcing dentists to stay in the public health system amounts to bullying.

“When we arrive with a special law, I don’t think we’re improving the situation,” he said.

with files from Phil Carpenter and the Canadian Press

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