Quebec payments to private health-care agencies explode

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Quebec payments to private health-care agencies explode
WATCH: During the pandemic, Quebec turned to private health agencies to help reduce its backlog of surgeries and lack of staff. We're now learning exactly how reliant the government has become on private care. And as Global’s Gloria Henriquez reports, critics are sounding the alarm over the future of the province's public health care. – Feb 14, 2023

Billions of dollars are being spent in private health-care agencies in Quebec, according to a new study published by the Fédération des travailleurs et travailleuses du Québec (FTQ).

“It’s totally out of this world, basically they’re making a ton of money,” said Vincent Marissal, Québec solidaire’s health critic.

The study states that in the past six years, the province has doled out $3 billion to private health-care agencies. Annual costs went from $1.7 billion in 2016 to $9.1 billion in 2022.

“You know that 33 per cent of these $3 billion are going directly in the pockets of the owners of those agencies. I’m pretty sure that those people can buy condos, boats and a lot of [things] with our health system,” said Magali Picard, president of the FTQ.
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The Quebec Order of Nurses says it has seen a record number of its members flee the public sector to private agencies, while emergency services are overcrowded and patients are on long lists waiting for treatment.

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“Nurses are really the lowest part of the spending, we’re talking about our orderlies, the people who are working in the house keeping,” said Picard.

“All those figures are telling me that now in our health system, we’re not using the agency in case of emergency, that’s now the way that they’re managing our health services. It’s very concerning.”

Picard blames the government for not offering good working conditions.

She says forced overtime and high nurse-patient ratios push health care workers out.

“The staff wants to leave because the conditions are too difficult,” Picard says. ” They need to come at the table [and] negotiate some very good collective agreements, they need to respect their staff, they need to have enough people in the system to make sure we won’t force them to do overtime day after day after day. They need a real plan.”

The Parti Québecois agrees.

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“We’ve been asking for the past three years to make a decision that [sic] the government becomes the best employer,” said Joël Arseneau, the Parti Québécois’ health critic.

Arsenault adds the government needs to establish a clear timeline to do away with private agencies.

It’s what’s expected when Quebec Health Minister Christian Dubé introduces a motion to legislate the use of such agencies on Wednesday.

But the Liberal Party acknowledges the government can’t just cut the cord.

“We must make sure that at the end of the day, the patient will be receiving the services,” said Marc Tanguay, Quebec’s Liberal Party leader.

As for Picard, she says the situation is urgent because the future of our public health-care system is on the line.


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