Unions decry budget cuts in wake of Quebec health reform

An analysis of budgets at health facilities shows deeps cuts of nearly $194 million, union leaders said Sunday.

The health network is under-financed by a total of $193,658,629 and these cuts are hurting workers and patients services, said Jeff Begley, president of the 130,000-strong Fédération de la santé et des services sociaux (FSSS-CSN).

What’s most alarming are the areas where the cuts are the deepest, youth in difficulty ($20,732,719) and mental health ($44,696,318), he said, “and also in medical imagery and laboratories ($23,146,606).”

The CSN analysis was based on information obtained through access to information of the different health facilities for the fiscal year 2016-17, Begley said.

“Members have been telling us this constantly,” he said, commenting on austerity measures that have cut into services for patients. “But anecdotal evidence is not sufficient, which is why we had to go through the budgets.”

Two years ago, Quebec Health Minister Gaétan Barrette set out to abolish 1,300 administrative positions in the health network to cut costs. As the Montreal Gazette reported this month, the reforms might have backfired with burnt-out managers quitting and positions left vacant.

The government’s own figures reveal Barrette has already surpassed his objective of job cuts, raising concerns he might have cut too deeply. Today, there are at least 1,452 fewer full-time administrators to run hospitals and clinics than in 2014.

“We saw it coming,” Begley said. “Stop denying you’re not touching services. Just last week, the parents of autistic children gave interviews about making difficult choices, like selling their cars to pay for treatment.”

Julie White, press attaché for Barrette, said the union is in “a raiding campaign” so their statement is in this context.

“We did not cut health budgets, we controlled spending growth,” White said, noting the health department is not cutting jobs.

“On the contrary, we have made room for additional investments of $65 million for the hiring of 1,300 orderlies, nursing assistants and nurses.”

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