The union federation representing most nurses in Quebec is demanding an apology from Health Minister Yves Bolduc after he threatened disciplinary action against nurses who help people jump the queue to get their flu vaccination.
"The management style the minister has used with us from the start is really contempt and threats — and we’ve had enough," said Régine Laurent, president of the Fédération interprofessionnelle de la santé du Québec (FIQ), at a news conference Wednesday.
The minister ignored nurses' input when preparing the province’s vaccination strategy, Laurent said, but her members have bent over backwards to make the system work, agreeing to work overtime and switch work sites.
Laurent denied her comments have anything to do with the difficult contract negotiations ongoing between nurses and the government.
Speaking in the national assembly on Tuesday, Bolduc said nurses caught giving preferential treatment could face punishment ranging from a simple reprimand to a dismissal.
"For example, someone who would steal a vaccination and sell it … I think that would merit being dismissed," Bolduc said.
'People are making big efforts — and we recognize that at all levels'—Health Minister Yves Bolduc
The minister was reacting to newspaper reports that well-known Quebec singer Claude Dubois had been vaccinated, even though he was not on a priority list.
But Laurent said nurses spend less than two minutes with someone in order to give them their vaccination and nurses cannot be police officers. Patients on priority lists are supposed to be filtered well before they ever reach a nurse, she said.
The vaccination issue was raised again Wednesday in the national assembly.
Parti Quebecois Leader Pauline Marois suggested the minister’s management of the vaccination campaign is the problem.
"You are incapable of giving clear directives," she said.
Bolduc said he never intended to launch a personal attack against any one category of worker.
He acknowledged that more than 300,000 health-care workers are helping with the vaccination campaign. "People are making big efforts — and we recognize that at all levels," Bolduc said.
"What we are denouncing is preferential treatment — and there shouldn’t be anymore…. If there is any preferential treatment that is done in bad faith, we will have to act accordingly."