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Quebec’s FIQ launches ad campaign: ‘Health care is in agony’

The Fédération interprofessionnelle de la santé du Québec (FIQ) broadcasts the slogan of its new advertising campaign, declaring the province's health care system to be 'in agony,' on the side of the Maisonneuve-Rosemont hospital in Montreal's east end on Sept. 15, 2020.
The Fédération interprofessionnelle de la santé du Québec (FIQ) broadcasts the slogan of its new advertising campaign, declaring the province's health care system to be 'in agony,' on the side of the Maisonneuve-Rosemont hospital in Montreal's east end on Sept. 15, 2020. TVA

After months of negotiations with the Quebec government for the renewal of its collective agreement, the Fédération interprofessionnelle de la santé (FIQ) is launching an advertising campaign to embarrass the Legault government, with the slogan “Health care is in agony; we are the solution.”

In an interview with The Canadian Press’s French-language service, Nancy Bédard, president of the FIQ, said she was aware of the weight of the slogan, even more so in the context of the coronavirus pandemic.

“It’s not a slogan; it’s reality,” said the president of the organization, which represents 76,000 nurses, nursing assistants and other health-care professionals. “We have to stop saying that everything is ‘not so bad.'”

The slogan risks irritating the premier, who has already thrown a few barbs at the FIQ, especially when members held demonstrations during the pandemic.

Read more: Quebec’s coronavirus second wave plan doesn’t address staff shortages, unions say

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“I would like not to irritate Mr. (François) Legault, but when you only have half of the nurses, nursing assistants that you are supposed to have … When you ask them to do 16 hours online, three days online … That’s the reality. I have no more words to say how weak the health system is,” said Bédard.

Far from improving, the phenomenon of nurse exhaustion has worsened with the ministerial decrees that have made it possible to limit vacations this summer and to impose staff transfers, she says.

“It’s worse than worse with the ministerial decrees. The health-care professionals are discouraged, resign, go on disability — they no longer have any juice,” the union leader said.

The Legault government has admitted that the lack of personnel in CHSLDs had been one of the key elements of the crisis there. It has also taken exceptional measures to train thousands of patient attendants with unparalleled speed.

48 hours to design an app for CHSLD workers
48 hours to design an app for CHSLD workers

In addition, the government asked the centres to limit the movement of personnel at the height of the crisis. It also granted bonuses to workers facing the risk of the coronavirus, including nurses, and made more protective equipment accessible to staff.

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Asked about this, Bédard admits that the addition of beneficiary attendants “supports the care team in CHSLDs.” But it will not be enough, she says. She cites the case of the intensive care unit at Gatineau Hospital, which had to suspend its activities last weekend for lack of nurses.

Bédard believes that the solution lies in improving the working conditions and salary of nurses, nursing assistants and other health-care professionals; safe nurse-patient ratios; complete and stable work teams and a salary that corresponds to the recognition of their importance in the health system.

Read more: Health-care workers at Maimonides walk-off the job over delayed provincial bonus payment

This advertising campaign will be in the form of posters, for example in bus shelters or with road signs. The theme: “Health care is in agony. We are the solution.”

To increase the pressure, in the context of its negotiations with Quebec City, the FIQ is considering certain means of action in the fall, but it is about “visibility,” wearing shirts and demonstrations.

But Bédard warns: “If the nurses stuck to their work schedule, to the contract they signed with their employer, to their position, if they only gave what they agreed to give in their contract with their employer, half of Quebec would close its health establishments.”

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This report from the Canadian Press’s French-language service was originally posted on September 15, 2020. The text has been lightly edited for clarity after being translated into English.