Opinion: Join the growing chorus against Quebec's health-care revamp

Bill 15 will hurt patients, researchers, communities and more. Sign the petition to stop the government from ramming it through.

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The last thing people want to hear in their fast-paced lives these days is: Time is running out.

But in this case, it is, and it’s serious.

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There is a strong possibility the government of Premier François Legault will invoke closure to ram Bill 15 — imposing radical change on Quebec’s health and social-services network — through the National Assembly before it rises for the holiday break on Dec. 8.

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This 300-page bill, containing more than 1,100 clauses, is the second largest ever presented in the assembly. Have you heard about it? Do you know what it will do to community voices in the management of health institutions?

Probably not. That’s because there hasn’t been sufficient consultation on a mammoth bill that demands more careful study and significant public input before it becomes law.

That is why the Quebec Community Groups Network is urging all Quebecers to very quickly sign a petition demanding the government put an immediate hold on this proposed legislation — a bill that would trigger an even greater centralization of health-care management and dramatically reduce the role of the community in the governance of health and social services institutions everywhere in Quebec.

Owing to the National Assembly’s calendar and the threat of closure, which would cease debate on this crucial piece of legislation, the deadline for signing the petition is Dec. 3.

At a QCGN webinar on Bill 15, experts told us this legislation is focused on structure and governance and will do nothing to address the crises in our emergency rooms, delays in surgeries, the lack of family doctors or other major and urgent shortcomings of our health care system.

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What it will do is centralize government control of the health and social services network under an umbrella organization called Santé Québec, to which all 30 heads of regional authorities would report, while abolishing the boards of all local institutions and removing any management role from patients, families, volunteers and communities — the people the health-care system exists to serve.

Six former Quebec premiers, representing different political parties, took the extraordinary step of writing a public letter urging the government to reverse course on a bill they described as “dangerous” and which would do little to improve efficiencies in the health and social-services network. In response, the government made a couple of minor tweaks.

The Legault government studied the more centralized Alberta health care system and determined it could serve a model to emulate. But Alberta has just begun to dismantle its bloated, centralized system, in part because it wasn’t effective in dealing with the lack of primary care and overcrowded emergency rooms — two of the biggest problems in our health-care network.

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Do Quebecers really want to follow a path that failed elsewhere?

We can also expect greater centralization to have a negative effect on the management of minority-language access to services, as local committees in charge of English-language access programs will be replaced by a central body, far removed from individual communities that are always more sensitive to local needs.

Whether in education or in health care, this government has demonstrated a penchant for centralizing power and control some have described as paternalistic. We are urging Quebecers to pay attention and speak out before this steamroller of a bill becomes law.

The petition urges the Quebec government to reconsider Bill 15 to avoid negative effects on patients, volunteers, charitable foundations, researchers and local communities; to hold additional consultations so citizens and groups who did not have the opportunity to be heard can be; and to amend the bill to preserve local health and social service governance and proximity to the community, including in the provision of English-language access and services.

I know everyone’s got a lot to do these days. Please add this to your to-do list in the next few days, before it’s too late.

Eva Ludvig is president of the Quebec Community Groups Network. The Bill 15 petition can be found on the National Assembly’s website.

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