On Tuesday this week, Minister of Health and Social Services Christian Dubé held a press conference to announce the details of his healthcare plan. This government is different from any other in that it has a new practice it has used since the start of the pandemic: taking up airtime and using press conferences, usually reserved exclusively for journalists, and turning them into public relations events where it salutes the “partners” in attendance. We will say this one last time: Was the FIQ invited to attend this special event? Yes. Did it accept the invitation? No.
Several commentators, hosts and political figures commented on our absence. It was becoming a serious problem! How dare the FIQ refuse an invitation from the Health Minister? Seriously, what is the problem? And what does that say about how people interpret the role of our organization? For decades the FIQ has been invited by every successive government to different press events and the answer is always the same: thank you, but no thank you! Our reason? The healthcare professionals we represent don’t want to see us at the government’s press conferences, they want to see us at consultations and bargaining tables! Plain and simple. Moreover, when we are invited but not even consulted on the plan, it is an underestimation of our intelligence to think that we will be instrumentalized in such a way. Must we remind everyone that this government has been all-out imposing horrible working conditions on healthcare professionals for two years now? And would we be the problem if the network falls apart? The network’s history didn’t start on Tuesday. What we see today is the result of decades of drastic budget cuts dressed up as innovation. The only constant over the years has been the FIQ’s mobilization to refuse the attacks on our public services and announce its deterioration should this neoliberalism continue. Alas, these last four years have proved us right.
The real story of Minister Dubé’s announcement is not that the FIQ didn’t attend the press conference. The real story is that Minister Dubé didn’t consult the FIQ, when it is nurses, licensed practical nurses, respiratory therapists and clinical perfusionists who know best what needs to be changed in a system that is constantly going off the tracks. And unfortunately, Minister Dubé’s plan leaves us a little sceptical. As for a diagnosis on the plan and several of its objectives, the Minister hasn’t made progress on the how or the timelines for delivering on it. It does not include any ways to eliminate mandatory overtime once and for all, nor does it take the adoption of a law on ratios into account.
We’ve swallowed our fair share of paternalistic attitudes, directed at us as if we couldn’t figure out what is good for us on our own. Regardless of what our predominantly male detractors think, we will not stray from our principles. As president, I am in no way impressed by this type of talk, nor will I play their game. They are seeking provocation over dialogue. Our organization will keep working hard for a seat at the decision-making table. We defend our right to say no, especially when others would like to make us into extras, when in fact we are key actors in rebuilding a healthcare system that is crumbling before our eyes. Our one and only motivation is to improve our members’ working conditions to ensure the population can access safe, quality care in the public health network. The Quebec population and healthcare professionals deserve better!