FIQ (Fédération Interprofessionnelle de la santé du Québec)

The use of private nursing personnel has become common practice in the public health network

In the past few weeks, a private nursing agency has run prime time television commercials to attract new candidates. It praises the benefits of being employed by a private agency: good salary conditions, flexible schedules, family-work reconciliation, benefits, etc. This is attractive for women who want to make a career in health care and who aspire to the best possible working conditions.

Given the shortage of care personnel, those who have a position in the public service can barely handle the workload during their shift and are also obliged by their employer to work overtime. So it’s a good bet that this agency’s advertising will attract professionals, whether experienced or recently admitted.

Despite this labour shortage, the vast majority of care professionals work part-time, 60% of nurses and 40% of nursing assistants. However, logic would dictate that the employers offer enough full-time positions to deliver all the care and services the public needs. Unfortunately, too many employers prefer to make institutionalized use of the services of private nursing agencies in their organization of work.

However, resorting to private agencies, far from constituting a breath of fresh air for the public health network, helps to accentuate the nursing shortage and undermine the quality of care. In fact, the use of private nursing resources considerably harms the stability of the care teams and increases the workload on care professionals in the public network. In addition, the breakup of the teams results in a loss of expertise.

Under such conditions, how can one think of attracting and retaining care professionals in the public network? How can one think of continuing to provide care that really meets the needs of a clientele who are vulnerable due to illness or age?

Moreover, the use of private agency services cost $158 million in 2007-2008. The profit outlook of these private firms is certainly interesting if one of them can afford prime time television advertising. All the money that goes to the private agencies could be invested in consolidating the public health network. The Quebec government must put a stop to this waste. It must ensure that health-care institutions stop their institutionalized use of private agency personnel. It must also see to the improvement of the conditions of practice of care professionals to maintain the quality of care to users.

Yours in solidarity,