First steps to private healthcare?

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Tashi Farmilo

Québec – The Quebec government’s recent decision to entrust management positions at the new Santé Québec agency to business leaders from the private sector has sparked concerns among experts and the general public. The agency, which will oversee the public health system, will be led by individuals recommended by other business leaders.

The government’s intention is to implement the business community’s vision of the health system, which coincides with its own. The move is reminiscent of the 1980s when the government entrusted a working committee, dominated by businessmen, tasked with evaluating government organizations, including the health care system. Among the committee’s recommendations were the privatization of hospitals and the abolition of CLSCs.

Critics of the new agency argue the private sector cannot save the public system, given its historical opposition to the creation of the system and its relentless efforts to erode it.

Pontiac MNA André Fortin has criticized Health Minister Christian Dubé’s plans to create the Agence santé Québec, calling it a “civil servant’s solution” that will allow Dubé to shift the responsibility of healthcare onto others.

Fortin’s criticisms come as Dubé suggests that an additional box on the organization chart of the Ministry of Health will help alleviate long wait times in emergency rooms. Fortin expressed his disagreement with this suggestion, and also criticized the government’s other proposals for improving the healthcare network. According to Fortin, the government’s focus seems to be on the structure of the healthcare network rather than on patient care, attracting healthcare professionals, and ensuring that Quebecers have access to adequate resources when they need medical care.

Dr. Alain Vadeboncoeur, a Canadian emergency physician and science communicator, recently shared his thoughts on the new Agence santé Québec in an appearance on the Les débatteurs de Noovo television program. According to

Dr. Vadeboncoeur, the agency is not a separate crown corporation and will report directly to the Minister of Health, meaning it is not an independent agency but rather a centralization. He also noted that the agency’s focus seems to be on achieving good results through action and that there may be some benefits to this approach.

Dr. Vadeboncoeur further stated that this type of centralization has never been attempted before, and it could be worth trying to see how it works in practice.

The fact that the government has chosen to call on companies such as IBM, Google, Energir, Pharmaprix, and KPMG to rescue the public system is worrisome but not surprising, given the current composition of the Cabinet. Anne Plourde, a researcher at IRIS and author of the book, Le privé, c’est mauvais pour la santé (Écosociété, 2021), warns that the business community and their political allies bear an undeniable historical responsibility for the degradation of public health care services. The government’s decision to entrust the management of the new agency to business leaders raises
serious concerns about the future of the public health system in Quebec.