The first week of the campaign is already behind us. But what should we make of this series of media flaps around piecemeal announcements? Election promises that barely hold the attention of observers and the population!
A lot of space has been devoted to all the questions of corruption and the “student crisis”. Healthcare nonetheless has been the subject of a few forays orchestrated by the parties. The question raised by these announcements: Are we in a race to determine which party will propose the measures most likely to improve the quality, continuity and safety of healthcare and services, or in a popularity contest among physicians who aspire to become Minister of Health? Is it necessary to recall that a star candidate, even a very good practitioner or an eminent specialist, is no guarantee that changes will really be made to the Quebec public health system to respond better to Quebecers’ needs?
Beyond these aspects of form, what about the substance of the promises made? We were treated to a few statistics and sums of money that would be invested for a few scattered measures, barely explained: $600 million in one year to ensure a family doctor for every person; creation of an “autonomy insurance” fund for seniors; a few tens of millions of dollars for telephone follow-up to certain clienteles; $58 million to extend dental coverage to children age 16 and under. But who, when and where? Not a word, or almost none!
In fact, this isn’t surprising! After all, for years, the primary concern in the health and social services network has been budget management! An essentially “financial” management philosophy. The network’s managers are concentrating on the achievement of accounting objectives, without any concern for the deterioration of the conditions of practice of healthcare professionals and the impacts on care delivery: insufficient staff levels, care team instability, reliance on independent labour, etc. – all factors that result in burnout, discouragement and devaluation of healthcare professionals.
The importance of the human relationship between the caregiver and the patient is excluded from the managers’ accounting exercise. More than an act that calls for competencies, knowhow and special interpersonal skills, providing care is also a human act, instilled with emotions and feelings. It is time to make a 180-degree turn by adopting an approach that puts the needs of the individual at the heart of the choices for our healthcare system and that assures healthcare professionals of a work environment where they are respected as individuals and as professionals, where their competencies are recognized and valued, and where they have the necessary means to provide safe, quality care and services.
But the first step may be to find an aspirant to the position of Minister of Health who can talk about the importance of human beings in the healthcare network, whether those who provide the care and services or those who receive them.