The Fédération interprofessionnelle de la santé du Québec–FIQ and FIQ | Secteur privé are making public the expectations and solutions they propose for the next fiscal year: “It’s the public sector healthcare professionals’ turn. We are reminding the Minister of Finance that the 76,000 FIQ and FIQP members are eagerly awaiting the next budget”, said Nancy Bédard, President of the FIQ. They have given their all since the beginning of the pandemic, making themselves sick. They have compromised their families, personal lives and health in order to care for the population. It’s enough. They are the backbone of the healthcare system. They are entitled to working conditions that reflect the strategic role they play in society. The Federations also wanted to point out that the Ministry of Finance did not accept their request for a meeting to reveal the vision of the 76,000 healthcare professional members they represent.
A change of culture or the wall
The changes demanded by the Federations to repair the healthcare system revolve around two key recommendations: reinvest in health to consolidate the public network and make the attraction and retention of healthcare professionals in the public health network a priority. The consequences of a lack of recognition of the profession have led to the exodus of healthcare professionals to the private sector. Managers have become dependent on the systematic use of overtime imposed on those who stay and on the use of private agency personnel to fill the needs. This represents hundreds of millions of dollars in expenditures, as well as a deterioration in services and health care. The Federations want to break this vicious circle.
The tentative agreement on the working conditions in the next collective agreement will reverse the trend, thanks to tools provided to stabilize the teams, limit the work overload and reduce the healthcare professional-to-patient ratios in CHSLDs and private subsidized institutions (EPC). The government also committed to reducing the use of independent labour. The Federations are also demanding better salaries to better represent the key role they have in the health network. These elements should be planned in the next budget.
Without these changes, the Federations are clear, millions of Quebecers will pay the price of a rapid deterioration of health services and an uncontrollable rise in expenditures due to an unprecedented privatization of them.
“It’s no coincidence that the results of the first year of the pandemic are so catastrophic in Québec, compared to the other provinces. We hit the wall! No accountability for managers, authoritarian working conditions, disdain for the pillars of the health network, it’s a failure! Québec is leading in the number of deaths in CHSLDs and number of healthcare professionals who have resigned to save their lives. We need a strong public healthcare system, at the heart
of which a priority is given to the professionals in the network and to quality care,” continued Ms. Bédard.
A solution is needed: quality public services for all
The pandemic has demonstrated to what point austerity measures over the last few years have decimated our public services, especially health and social services. The privatization of a growing portion of seniors’ housing, the centralized, authoritative accounting management of the public network are all elements at the root of the major health crisis that Quebec is currently going through. The government has failed in its obligations to protect the public because of chronic under-investment in public health and infection prevention and control. Seniors and the most vulnerable, as well as healthcare professionals have borne the brunt of cutbacks in public health. This has resulted in an increase in workload for healthcare professionals, among other things. There is a clear need to reinvest in public health and prevention.
Certain sectors have been completely removed from the priorities in previous budgets. That is the case for mental health and home care. The needs in mental health have intensified during the pandemic. There is an urgent need for action on prevention and early detection of psychosocial issues. The government can no longer bury its head in the sand. Massive and recurrent investments are needed. The assistance that specialty nurse practitioners could provide in mental health is one solution which the government cannot do without.
For home care, double the investments is needed. The pandemic and crisis it caused in long-term care settings has brought the Federations to press the government to review its orientations and opt for providing home services that are accessible to a greater number, which meet seniors’ needs and allow them to realistically consider home support as a possible option.
“It’s over. The government must stop managing based on the next electoral deadline. There is only one solution. Health is not an expense, it is an investment. The surpluses generated during the years of austerity must be used to avoid repeating mistakes. It is women and the most vulnerable who suffer the most from cutbacks and the consequences from the pandemic. It is time for the government to be fair. Unable to see that for themselves, we are 76,000 healthcare professionals to remind them.”, concluded Nancy Bédard.
PHOTO : RADIO-CANADA / SYLVAIN ROY ROUSSEL