Together for healthcare

A march to fight inequalities in the health system

A public, accessible and universal health system provides a safeguard against social inequalities and is one of the cornerstones of a just society. We must defend our healthcare system against the sweeping austerity measures imposed by the current government.

Since the 1980s, successive waves of budget cuts and management reforms by governments of all stripes has increasingly threatened the public nature of our health system.

In an unprecedented authoritarian drift, the increased centralization of power under the Quebec Liberal Party and its Minister of Health, Gaétan Barrette, contributed significantly to the accelerated erosion of the public system.

By gradually weakening the public system, the ruling elites are increasingly opening the floodgates to the privatization of health.

The current structure of front-line care, with its many service gaps and the difficult working conditions imposed on staff, has been a major contributor to the development of the private sector. In CHSLDs and home care, the drastic budget cuts have reduced the accessibility of care to such an extent that many people now have to turn to the private sector for essential services. For long-term care, rehabilitative care, psychotherapy and many other health services, access to health professionals has become easier in the private sector than in the public system, for those, of course, that can afford it.

Our colleagues in public healthcare: clerks, nurses, respiratory therapists, technicians, technicians and social workers are demoralized and exhausted by management strategies that dehumanize care and no longer allow them to offer the quality services they would want to provide. At the same time, workers in janitorial and food services of our institutions have to deal with their very precarious situation.

While our colleagues experience very difficult working conditions and our patients are deprived from accessing the health services they need, the only thing that seems immune to cuts is our pay!

Enough! We have to turn the tide. Inspired by our colleagues in nursing who bravely stood up to Minister Barrette’s disregard for their often inhuman working conditions, we believe it is time to go from defensive to offensive. We demand not only an end to the cuts and centralization of powers within the Ministry of Health, but we also put forward concrete changes to ensure our health system is truly public, accessible and universal. Contrary to the Prime Minister’s offensive and insulting statements, we believe that it is possible to redistribute resources within the Quebec health system in order to promote the health of the population and meet the needs of patients, without having to harm the wellbeing of healthcare workers1.

Convinced of the importance of a strong public health system, we reject the recent increases in income negotiated by our medical federations and support a general mobilization of health professionals and community members to demand a fair distribution of resources in healthcare for the benefit of the population.

We call on all the population to join us for a march under the banner « Together for Healthcare », starting at Place Émilie-Gamelin on Saturday, March 24, 2018 at 1 pm.

We demand:

1) An immediate cancellation of the increases in physicians remuneration, as well as a public consultation on the terms of remuneration and the amounts granted to doctors by Quebec society.

Physicians remuneration already accounts for a significant portion of health budgets, to the detriment of services to patients and the working conditions of other health care workers. In a context where not enough funds are allocated to many sectors of the public health system, this additional raise is particularly appalling and highlights the need to re-evaluate the relevance of current modes of remuneration.

2) Recognition and appreciation for all those working in the healthcare field, in solidarity with their struggles for dignified and fulfilling working conditions. 

This recognition must be translated into dignified work opportunities and remuneration, fulfilling working conditions for all, as part of a genuine interdisciplinary and integrated approach to healthcare. This is particularly necessary for those working in undervalued and underrecognized positions within the healthcare system, often women, racialized/migrant workers living in precarity.

3) Reinvestment in public health and in expanding the services covered by the provincial health insurance plan to include psychological care, dental care, eye care, rehabilitation care (physiotherapy, occupational therapy, speech therapy) , audiology and all others) as well as a free and comprehensive public drug insurance system. 

The essential and complementary role of the various health workers is no longer to be demonstrated in the global management of health problems. The professional resources currently available are clearly insufficient to meet the needs of the population and there are many gaps in services that particularly affect the most vulnerable communities. The use of the private sector enhances inequities in access and quality of care and services. It is essential to include publicly funded services within the front-line network to ensure universal access regardless of income.

4) Access to quality health care for all people living in Quebec, particularly vulnerable and marginalized communities who are deprived of it for structural reasons. 

Not everyone is equal in accessing the health system. Structural barriers to access care disproportionately affect precarious migrants, Indigenous people, homeless people, LGBTQ + community members, people with disabilities, racialized communities, people in prison and other marginalized populations. Loss of trust in the network, stigma and prejudice, lack of knowledge of the system, inability to fulfill administrative requirements, exclusion from medical coverage, inaccessible resources, medical « deserts » etc, barriers to accessing health care are many and must be addressed if we want our public health system to be truly universal and accessible.

This is a non-partisan demonstration. We ask groups who are concerned with these issues to support the march: community groups, unions, workers’ groups, professional and student associations, patient advocacy groups and user committees.

We recognize that physicians too often take the forefront in the public space around health issues. We therefore want to prioritize the interventions of our colleagues and community members during this event.

The Board of Directors of Quebec Physicians for the Public Plan (MQRP)
The « demonstration » sub-committee of Quebec physicians for public healthcare (MQRP)

(1) « Voyez-vous, on est dans un système public où tout le temps — à l’avenir également — les ressources [ne] sont pas au même niveau que les besoins. Ça va toujours être le cas dans le domaine de la santé. Donc, les gens […] sont toujours poussés au maximum. C’est admirable. »  (31 janvier 2018)

(You see, we are in a public healthcare system where all the time – and in the future as well – resources don’t match needs. It will always be the case in healthcare. So people will  […] always be pushed to the maximum. It’s admirable.  (January 31st 2018)