The Quebec government has tabled a bill to allow medical information to be shared more easily.
There are currently 9,000 databases being maintained in Quebec’s 34 health regions. Health Minister Christian Dubé wants to eventually combine them all into one modern digital system.
That will take years, but first, the law needs to be changed.
During the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, Dubé said he had trouble getting even basic information from Quebec’s health establishments — things like how many employees worked in CHSLDs.
“We could not make, as a government, good decisions because we didn’t have information. And that’s to me why this project is so important,” Dubé said.
On Friday, Dubé proposed a legal framework as the first step to modernizing data systems in the health care sector. For the first time, Bill 19 will also allow patient files to be transferred between health authorities, which is currently against the law for privacy and security reasons.
The health minister added the proposed legislation will also allow the health ministry to access more information in order to better manage the system globally.
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The government is being criticized for its shoddy data collection during the first wave of COVID-19 in long-term care homes.
Coroner Géhane Kamel has complained that Quebec would not give her all the documents she needed to conduct her investigation into what happened. She revealed that instead of an inspectors’ report, she received a blank Excel sheet.
All week, opposition parties have been pushing the government to share those documents, accusing it of trying to cover up its mismanagement.
“The government this week is giving one version of the data that the coroner needs to her, then changing it, then making documents on the fly to provide to her,” said Liberal MNA André Fortin on Tuesday.
However, the minister said data collection in long-term care homes was careless and uncoordinated.
“Unfortunately maybe it hasn’t been provided properly at the first inquiry that coroner Kamel has. But we said, ‘Ask us and we’ll give it to you,'” he said.