SHAWVILLE Jan. 9, 2020
Pontiac’s MNA caused a stir last week when he questioned whether a deal had been struck between the provincial government and Quebec’s federation of specialist doctors (FMSQ).
On Jan. 8, it was announced that there would be an interruption to the general surgery services at the Pontiac Community Hospital, starting Thursday Jan. 9 at 8 a.m. and continuing until Monday, Jan. 13 at 8 a.m. The interruption also affected the obstetrics department, as a surgeon needs to be available for possible caesarean sections.
Pontiac MNA André Fortin called the local media to his office in Campbell’s Bay the following day to question why the provincial government hadn’t signed a deal with the FMSQ. On Nov. 28, 2019, Health Minister Danielle McCann announced that the government and the FMSQ had reached a deal and would be creating regional groups of replacement specialists to cover breaks in surgery and obstetrics. The deal was supposed to come into effect on Dec. 1.
“In November, the minister announced that there was a deal between the government and the [FMSQ] so that there wouldn’t be any breaks of services when surgeons weren’t available at the Shawville hospital and at other hospitals,” Fortin said. “We thought this was resolved and that it wouldn’t happen again. In November, at the time, I’d congratulated the minister on this, which was one of the solutions we’d advocated for. I struggle to understand today, why we’re still facing the same situation, if there is a deal in place.”
Fortin filed an access to information request in December to obtain a copy of the agreement and received a reply on Dec. 20 from the assistant deputy minister, Pierre Lafleur, stating that the deal hadn’t been signed by all the parties involved. He presented copies of the response to the media on Jan. 9 as proof that the minister wasn’t being truthful when she announced the deal had been reached. Fortin said he had tried to contact her office after hearing about the latest break in services, but hadn’t received a response. At the time, he had not attempted to contact the FMSQ.
“We have a number of questions for the minister today,” he said. “Why were we told that this deal was concluded? When will it be in effect? Can we get a copy of this deal? And can we get clarity as to what’s going to happen for the patients of the Pontiac and elsewhere, who thought that this was behind them … This is a crucial part of what services a hospital provides, and we expect, as promised and as indicated by the minister, that this will be in place.”
“I certainly hope that this is resolved before I have to get up in question period again,” he added, noting that the Assembly doesn’t sit until early February.
Fortin also said that he had spoken with representatives from the local health authority, CISSSO.
“I know they made efforts on their part to try and find a replacement surgeon, but if there’s a deal in place that should happen through the government and the federation of specialist doctors, not by the CISSSO having to make phone calls left right and centre,” he said.
On Jan. 10, CISSSO announced that the break in surgery would be lifted at 5 p.m. that day, as a surgeon had been found to fill in. However, since that surgeon didn’t have training on caesarean sections, the break in obstetrics would continue until Monday at 8 a.m.
That same day, the FMSQ fired back at Fortin in the pages of the French-language daily Le Droit, calling his statements “demagogic” and “false”. The federation’s director of public affairs, Jacques Tétrault, told the paper that the compensation agreement between the two parties was indeed in effect, and that the regional coverage plans were gradually being implemented. He questioned why Fortin didn’t contact them directly, and also questioned the speed at which the CISSSO announced the break.
Speaking on Monday, Fortin said that he had reviewed the agreement and found that the regional replacement groups will be fully in place by April 1.
“It would have been easier, it would have been clearer, it would have been more honest if the health minister, when she made the announcement, had said that service would be guaranteed as of April 1, but that they were starting to look for replacements on an ad hoc basis, which is the case,” he said.
He said that he learned from the CISSSO that they had found the replacement surgeon internally and that the FMSQ’s regional coverage team isn’t in place yet.
“For now, we continue to see sporadic replacements that don’t have … don’t fulfill all the expectations of the people here,” he said. “We’re grateful to have surgeon from the city, but we still don’t have obstetrics service.”
He also noted that the health minister has yet to sign the agreement.
“The information that we got, was that the deal is signed by some parties, but not by all parties,” he explained. “Apparently it’s signed by the FMSQ and by the president of the treasury board, but it hasn’t been signed by the health minister just yet. That’s my understanding at this point.”
He defended his decision to go to the media with his access to information request, rather than contacting the federation directly.
“Any MNA would have been irresponsible had they not shared that information with the public,” he said. “I’ll continue to use every method and every tactic to improve service in this region and I’ll make no apologies for defending the people in this region and I’ll continue to do so.”
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