QCGN want Health Minister Barrette to slow down on Bill 10

Regional Anglophone groups have called for Health Minister Gaétan Barrette to slow down the implementation of his controversial health reform proposal, known as Bill 10.

The Quebec Community Groups Network says Barrette must take time to examine the bill's repercussions for Quebec's English-speaking community. The group held a press conference on November 17 in Montreal to discuss the reservations they have about the bill.

"If adopted as currently drafted, Bill 10 would abolish the English-speaking community's hospitals and nursing homes as stand-alone institutions. As well, it would eliminate community volunteers from the governance of our health and social service system, fatally compromise the bilingual status of our institutions, and exclude these community institutions from the critical role they play in the vitality of the communities they serve," the QCGN stated in a press release.

"Bill 10 goes too far, too fast," warned former Liberal MNA Clifford Lincoln. "Suddenly reducing the number of health and social service institutions from 182 to 28 will have an undeniable impact on accountability, transparency, volunteerism and citizen participation. And for Quebec's English-speaking community, [passage of the bill] means the loss of 23 out of 24 of its bilingual institutions and boards, and their protection under law," he said.

[Barrette] "is telling us don't worry, be happy, we'll fix it," Lincoln said. "Until we see that ‘fix' in writing, in the text of the law, we're not only going to be unhappy but we'll be extremely worried."

"I've been in politics, and when you want to pass something in a hurry, you choose December or the summer," Lincoln added. "I was struck when the minister talked about passing it rapidly. I ask the premier, who I know and respect...to stop this runaway train instead of imposing the law right away. We need to take time to make it right."

Richard Walling is past president of the Provincial Advisory Committee on the dispensing of health and social services in the English language, current president of the Quebec Health and Social Services Foundation, and executive director of Jeffery Hale Community Partners.

"The realities across the province are different for different regions," he said. "Most of the designated [bilingual] institutions are on the Island of Montreal, but we are the last and only one in Quebec City," said Walling. "We encourage the government to work with us to understand the overall impact of this legislation and what the best solutions might be for these local realities."

"The legislation as originally tabled swallows us up whole," Walling explained. "We'll go from being extremely well represented on our own board to being part of a huge CISSS with 30,000 employees. If [Jeffery Hale Hospital] is swallowed up into a huge structure where it represents less than 2 per cent of the population, this would be a devastating blow to the institution and the culturally and linguistically adapted services it provides."

Sara Saber-Freedman, president of the board of the MAB-Mackay Rehabilitation Centre in Montreal, emphasized that Anglo groups do not oppose the intent of the bill, only its implementation.

"There is no reason at all to destroy boards to meet the minister's objectives," she said. "We endorse the minister's goals of better co-ordination, greater efficiency and less duplication of services. But these objectives can and should be met without destroying our communities' infrastructure. We think Bill 10 should create new integrated service centres to coordinate admissions, transfers, clinical plans and program budgets. These boards should not substitute for institutional boards; rather, they should complement institutional boards. We insist our institutions and their corporations continue to exist as legally distinct organizations...with directors appointed by our community [who] have real powers."

Saber-Freedman said the proposed law should be amended to exempt bilingual institutions from the streamlining process and to guarantee that Anglophone patients would have priority access to services in English.

"We are ready to work with the minister, but we're sure these changes will take longer," Saber-Freedman concludes. "We want the government to agree to a modest delay, which will allow [them] to make the changes we and all Quebecers deserve.
"Expressions of goodwill are not enough," she added. "The minister must act."

Barrette has indicated that he will amend the proposed legislation to take into account the concerns of Quebec's English-speaking community, although he has not specified how the legislation would be changed. He has said he hopes to have the bill passed before the National Assembly session ends in early December. If enacted, the law would take effect as early as April 1.

The QCGN has launched a petition against Bill 10, which can be signed at bill10.com. QCGN communications director Rita Legault said the petition had gathered close to 7,000 signatures as of Sunday.