The fast-rising trend of private involvement in Quebec’s public health sector has highlighted the need to address the issue head on. It’s high time for us to come to grips with the reality that the public system has failed to provide timely access to health services and admit that the current situation is no longer sustainable. Can the private sector be part of the solution? Can the government contract with private health care providers to expand access to health care services, without making sick people pay out of pocket? These are but a few of the questions being debated in the ongoing discussions led by the Canadian Medical Association.
In the midst of major health care reforms, universal health care coverage should be a bright guiding light for the Quebec government. Everyone in Quebec should, without exception, be able to access the health care they are entitled to, regardless of their financial status. The crux of the issue is that we pride ourselves on having a universal system that, in reality, falls short of that promise. Think of all the patients who have gone to the hospital for an operation only to be turned away at the operating room. Or the thousands of people in Quebec waiting for a family physician or a diagnostic test for a concerning medical condition. And what about the patients dealing with mental health issues, who lack the means to see a private psychologist and have all but given up hope of getting help from the public sector? How can such a system claim to be “universal”? In my opinion, a truly universal system must ensure that everyone has access to timely medical care, whatever their capacity to pay for it. We have to face the fact that this is not necessarily the case right now.
An unavoidable subject
Noticing the growing number of people turning to the private sector over the years, the Canadian Medical Association is currently on a nationwide tour to explore various perspectives on the state of health care. As a matter of fact, we will be joining La Presse in Montréal on October 23 to discuss the topic with certain key players in Quebec’s health care ecosystem. The purpose of the tour is to assess the current state of the health care system and gain more insight into what the future may hold. These discussions are not meant to advocate for any one system over another; the focus is on exploring different broad-stroke options given that the status quo is no longer viable. Quebec being the province that relies the most on private health care makes it an ideal venue for these kinds of conversations. I’ve been a family physician in Val-d’Or, Abitibi, for over 30 years. I’ve witnessed how my field, and even my own practice, has changed over the years. I have the same concerns as my patients: some have been left waiting for months for important tests, others are now confined to a wheelchair after waiting over 18 months for hip surgery, and others are still spending up to 24 hours in the emergency room because they don’t have a family physician! With the health care reform introduced by Minister Dubé’s Bill 15—set to pass before the year’s end—the time is ripe for us to come together and determine how we can best serve patients now and in the future.
Dr. Jean-Joseph Condé
Francophone spokesperson and CMA board representative for Quebec
This piece was initially published in La Presse+