After missing the targets he set in 2021 and reconfirming them in 2022, the Minister of Health, Christian Dubé, is back with a new plan to catch up on surgeries.
Dube was accompanied at a press conference on Wednesday by the president of the Fédération des médecins spécialistes du Québec (FMSQ), Dr. Vincent Oliva.
More than 17,000 Quebecers have been waiting more than a year for an operation.By comparison, 19,000 patients were on a waiting list in June 2021 and 22,000 were on a list in September 2022.
The Dubé-Oliva plan aims to reduce the number of patients waiting for surgery for more than a year to a pre-pandemic level of 2,500 by December 31, 2024.
The government has also set an interim goal of getting the list down to 7,500 by March 2024. Each facility has an individual reduction target.
This will be accomplished by attempting by making operating rooms more efficient and reopening those that are closed. Voluntary overtime will also be available on evenings, weekends and holidays.
The government also plans to take greater advantage of private clinics.
Approximately $400 million will be invested to accomplish the catch-up –the amount is included in an agreement that was concluded with the FMSQ in 2019.
THIRD ‘REALISTIC’ ATTEMPT
Last year, Dubé was still promising to get back to the pre-pandemic rate by spring 2023, but the ministry missed that target. He blamed the delays on the COVID-19 pandemic.
“There was a fifth, sixth and then a seventh wave. During that time, our operating rates in our surgeries were running at about 85 per cent,” he said during the press conference, defending himself.
The new target he set on Wednesday is “realistic,” in that we will “roll at 100 per cent, plus a voluntary basis, and make operating rooms (available).”
“If there are operating rooms that are open, we’re going to fill them and then we’re going to provide services,” Oliva promised, adding that he also wants to prioritize oncology surgeries that shouldn’t be delayed (more than 56 days).
“There are patients, if the delay is too long, whose disease stage may change, may advance, and their prognosis may deteriorate,” the FMSQ president acknowledged.
Dubé is not meeting his objectives, the Quebec Liberal Party (QLP) and Québec solidaire (QS) said. “What is the value of Christian Dubé’s word?” said interim Liberal leader Marc Tanguay in a press briefing.
“He had said, post-pandemic, more than a year ago: ‘The waiting list for surgeries more than one year will go from 20,000 to 3000 in the next year.’ The next year, it’s gone. It’s not 20,000 to 3,000, it’s 17,500. Today, he says, “Okay, reset, we’re going to go back.'”
“He had said, post-pandemic, more than a year ago: ‘The waiting list for surgeries more than one year will go from 20,000 to 3000 in the next year. The next year, it’s gone. It’s not 20,000 to 3,000, it’s 17,500. Today, he says, “O.K., reset, we start over. Another promise, December 31, 2024,” he lamented.
The CAQ government is constantly setting new deadlines, because the previous ones are never respected, the co-spokesperson of QS, Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois pointed out next.
“Why? Because we do not solve the basic problem. And the basic problem is not the organizational chart, it is that there is a lack of people in the system,” he said.
As for the Parti Québécois (PQ), the agreement with the medical specialists is being viewed in a positive light. “I think we can get there when we work together,” said PQ health critic Joël Arseneau.
Have you been waiting a long time for surgery in Quebec? We’d like to hear your story. E-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published in French on May 10, 2023.
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