180 days to balance CSSSG books
Pontiac-Aylmer MNA supports trusteeship for hospitals
Liberal Health Minister Gaétan Barrette says he has had enough of the deficits at the CSSS de Gatineau (CSSSG). On January 13, he dissolved the previous administration and installed a new temporary administration for 180 days. Pontiac-Aylmer MNA André Fortin welcomed the controversial action. “I think it’s good news. Patients have a right to expect quality services and as taxpayers they also have the right to expect good governance of the funds they provide to the government for these services,” Fortin told the Bulletin. “The CSSSG’s trusteeship, with the goal of restoring the administration’s financial health before any merger with other CSSSs, is to the advantage of both taxpayers and health-care users. We had an independent, non-government study indicating that savings of $24 million (over three years) were possible without affecting services to users. It would have been irresponsible to shelve this report and not implement some measures.”
After dissolving the former administration, the Health Minister appointed Jean Hébert, Outaouais’ Health Agency DG, to resolve the CSSSG’s financial situation -- in six months. “I’m happy the individual taking over the CSSS is someone who knows the health network in Outaouais. He’s from Aylmer and knows our local needs,” said Fortin.
Minister Barrette said that CSSSG deficits are a recurring problem, after he announced the CSSSG’s deficit will reach $5.6 million for the coming financial year, instead of the expected $4 million. Unions objected, arguing this was a dictatorial decision, but Fortin believes the Health Minister had no other choice but to stop the bleeding. “The CSSSG said they had a plan for their deficit, but all we saw is an increase in their deficit. This situation is alarming because the CSSSG had a plan and it was not implemented,” Fortin told the Bulletin.
The old administration was asked to step aside for 180 days because it was unable to meet the ministry’s requirements in reducing its expenses and balancing its budget. Health care unions find it ironic that the ministry is asking the CSSSG to cut millions while it’s paying the government of Ontario roughly $125 million annually in reimbursement fees. Unions argue that Quebec would save much more money if they invested in improving their own health care services instead of cutting services and encouraging residents to cross over to Ontario to obtain services.
“There will always be services that we will need to get in Ontario. There are specialized services we don’t offer here, and Quebec will always spend to reimburse certain services its residents obtain in Ontario. And Ottawa is more accessible from our region than is Montreal,” said Fortin. “We are still reducing the number of residents going to Ontario for health-care. One example is our investment in Outaouais’ new birthing centre. There are certain services we must repatriate and they remain a priority.”
Outaouais an example?
Apart from the unions, opposition to Dr Barrette’s plan has been limited. None of the MNAs showed their displeasure with the temporary suspension of the CSSSG’s administration. All of the regions’ MNA’s are Liberal, like the Health Minister himself, and it’s possible the Minister picked a very safe area for this controversial action. Not so, said Fortin.
The Minister said the new administration will draw upon the private report to balance the budget. According to Dr. Barrette and MNA Fortin, it is possible to cut costs without affecting services to patients. For example, “Some departments slow down during holiday seasons but keep the same workforce. It’s sound management to reduce the workforce during slower times and increase it during busier periods,” said Fortin. It’s unclear what measures will balance the CSSSG books, but West Quebecers should have a better idea of what the changes will look like by June. Aylmer is keeping a keen eye on its day services.