April 23, 2019 6:09 pm
Updated: April 23, 2019 7:39 pm

Quebec health minister considers extending surgery pilot project in private clinics

Quebec Health Minister Danielle McCann says she’s considering extending the pilot project for publicly-funded surgeries in private clinics after one physician sounded the alarm over the need to make permanent plans due to a lack of resources in hospitals.

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In a move to shorten waiting lists, the Quebec government started a pilot project in 2016 to allow publicly-funded doctors to perform one-day surgeries on their patients in three private clinics.

An internal survey conducted in March by one of the clinics, Rockland MD, revealed that the majority of physicians taking part in the project feel they are more productive when performing surgeries in private facilities.

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With the current arrangement set to expire at the end of May, at least one doctor is sounding the alarm over the need to make the use of private facilities a permanent practice.

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“Every doctor who was surveyed is happy to be able to operate their patients more quickly,” said Dr. Dominique Synnott, general surgeon responsible for the breast clinic at the Sacré Coeur Hospital.

Synnott, who regularly performs mastectomies at Rockland MD, says she’s had enough of pilot projects.

“Can someone just commit and make the decision instead of having us walk on a tight rope?”

A total of 130 physicians were surveyed by Rockland MD. Of them, 86 answered that they’re able to perform up to 40 per cent more surgeries in one day at a private clinic compared to a hospital. The majority of doctors who responded to the survey were also highly satisfied with the quality of staff and equipment provided in the private facilities.

“Surgeries are cancelled every day in hospitals,” said Synnott.

“We can’t operate in our kitchens so give us the tools.”

Quebec Health Minister Danielle McCann isn’t disputing the survey’s findings and admits the use of private operating rooms has become necessary in order to meet the ministry’s requirements for acceptable surgery delays.

For example, the target time for cancer patients is surgery within eight weeks — but Synnott fears meeting that requirement would be impossible without the use of private facilities.

Before agreeing to extend it, McCann claims the pilot project requires further analysis.

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“There is a possibility that we could have another year of this project,” said McCann while admitting that “patients are getting a good service, quality (service) and it’s free.”

McCann promises to complete her analysis in the coming days or weeks before making her recommendation to cabinet. The province’s priority is to maximize the existing resources in the public healthcare sector before making any new commitment, she said.

“Of course we have to really reinforce our public system and we have to use as much as possible all the surgical platforms that we have but having said this those projects offer really good services and very efficient service,” McCann told Global News.

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