Quebec’s private mini hospitals: another “breach in the wall” for public healthcare

By JP Fortin 

The Coalition Avenir Québec (CAQ) is working hard these days to satisfy powerful private sector lobbyists. This troublesome practice generates a dissonance between “the problems” as expressed by the people and “the solutions” proposed by the CAQ government.

Faced with a worsening housing crisis, the CAQ is more inclined to grant concessions to the Corporation of Quebec Property Owners and the private sector in general than to tackle the problem. It’s the same situation with the environment, where after years of zigzags, the CAQ disgracefully defended the narrow interests of real estate developers in the South Shore suburbs of Montreal and their “third link” transit project.

But where the CAQ is really entranced by the neoliberal siren call – like the Liberals and PQ before them – is in the area of healthcare.

The government’s creation of subsidized private mini hospitals is not a response to popular demands. It is a bureaucratic solution promoted mainly by the neoliberal Institut économique de Montréal think tank and the chambers of commerce. Notably, this shadowy “institute” is also the former employer of the parliamentary assistant to the Minister of Health Youri Chassin. It appears that the sole objective of this CAQ policy (and 2022 election promise) is to open another “breach in in the wall” for public services and to flout the Canada Health Act for the umpteenth time. The implicit goal is to dismantle the public healthcare network, through a thousand cuts.

To justify these private mini hospitals to the public, the government spins the tangled yarn that ​​lucrative private healthcare that does not in fact cannibalize resources from public services. They aren’t exactly shouting from the rooftops that the private conglomerates which are on the list to administer these mini hospitals are the same ones that managed long-term care residences and private surgery clinics during the pandemic.

Paid for from the public purse, surgeries performed by the private sector during the pandemic were up to 150 percent more expensive than their equivalents in the public sector. In addition, private clinics took advantage of the health emergency to negotiate an increase in their profit margin from 10 to 15 percent.

But the insatiable thirst for profit doesn’t stop there. There is a drive to hermetically seal the new mini hospitals from public sector collective agreements, while systematizing the use of subcontracting. All of this is consistent with the rest of the CAQ’s anti-union rhetoric. The CSN union fairly describes the policy as an “ideological choice.”

Beyond the financial implications, privatization in the healthcare sector is an attack on the fundamental principles of universality and accessibility. Faced with real problems like wait times and lack of access, the CAQ instead proposes solutions to the problems it perceives, namely a missed opportunity to subsidize the private sector. This isn’t a question of moral failure on the part of the caquistes, but rather of their incapacity, as mere instruments of powerful private sector interests, to really defend the people of Quebec. The underlying problem isn’t political corruption, but rather blind opportunism in the capitalist system.

The CAQ defends interests which run counter to those of the people of Quebec. So, it is up to us to organize ourselves to defend our own interests.


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