Militarialize Québec health education?

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Allyson Beauregard
Rédacteur / Managing Editor
editor@journalpontiac.com

Staff shortages plagued Québec’s health institutions long before the Covid crisis ever began, but the situation has become even more dire as around 10,000 employees are either off sick with the virus, are in self-isolation, or are absent for unknown reasons.

Allyson Beauregard
Rédacteur / Managing Editor
editor@journalpontiac.com

Staff shortages plagued Québec’s health institutions long before the Covid crisis ever began, but the situation has become even more dire as around 10,000 employees are either off sick with the virus, are in self-isolation, or are absent for unknown reasons.
Since March 15, CISSSO, the Outaouais’ health authority, has been calling on the
public (those with experience and skills in the healthcare realm) and health system retirees to lend a helping hand, particularly for residential and long term care centres. In mid-April, Canada even sent in the army to help alleviate staffing shortages in Québec’s care facilities for seniors.
The Pontiac has experienced its fair share of staff shortages. The local obstetrics unit is two months into a six month shutdown because of a lack of nurses, a province-wide problem. 
It appears a decline in the number of people entering the nursing field isn’t to blame. According to the Québec Order of Nurses, in 2018-2019, a record number of nurses were issued licenses to work in Québec (3,893), bringing the workforce to 71,487, an increase of 1.4%; the annual growth rate had not exceeded 1% since 2013-2014.
So where’s the problem?
According to Statistics Canada, the average cost of tuition in undergraduate programs is about $8,500 in Ontario, compared to just under $3,000 in Quebec, although Canadian, non-Québec residents are charged a premium when they pursue studies in Québec. 
The problem is that many of Québec’s health graduates take advantage of their province’s cheap, subsidized education and then take their knowledge to Ontario or elsewhere where they are paid substantially more … and there’s nothing to stop it. The move is understandable – who wouldn’t want to earn about $20,000 more annually by simplytaking a short drive across a bridge? But is there a way to retain that workforce other than the obvious solution of raising salaries?
What about taking a lesson from the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) who pay 100% of school fees for various programs and guarantee a job in the field? The catch? Each program requires two months of service with the CAF for every month of paid
education.
Why couldn’t Québec do the same for education in the health field: pay for students’ education, whether they are Québec residents or not, in exchange for a set term of employment within the province? If a graduate doesn’t want to follow through with the plan, they’re required to pay back the full, unsubsidized cost of their education, which could be set at the nation’s average.
This would ensure the province’s investment in subsidized education isn’t literally thrown to other regions when students graduate, and Québec’s health system will have a steady, predictable stream of new recruits. Do the math: it might not be much of an added expense considering the current loss on our investment to subsidize education for a workforce lost to Ontario or elsewhere.
It’s time to put some sort of carrot on the stick because the status quo is just
perpetuating the brain drain out of Québec.