Bill 10, controversial health reform bill, passes in National Assembly

A health care bill that’s controversial with some anglophone rights organizations has passed in the National Assembly.

Bill 10 merges health boards, should save government hundreds of millions of dollars

Health Minister Gaétan Barrette said services for English-speaking people will not be affected by Bill 10. (Jacques Boissinot/CP)

A health care bill that’s controversial with some anglophone rights organizations has passed in the National Assembly.

It was voted on just after midnight on Saturday, with a vote of 62 for and 50 against.

Bill 10 abolishes the boards of individual health institutions, mainly hospitals, and merges them into 28 regional boards. It’s expected to save the government of Quebec $200 million per year.

However, the anglophone rights group — Quebec Community Group Network (QCGN) — warned that eliminating boards at individual health institutions will weaken them to the point where anglophones will not have any representation.

In November, former Liberal MNA Clifford Lincoln called Bill 10 unfair and unjust, saying the provincial government is pushing it through too quickly.

"It's such a huge reorganization of the health system that it buries the individual, it buries the client, it buries the patient, it buries the individual institutions and their boards into one, big, mega-reorganized system," Lincoln told CBC's Radio Noon.

English-speaking Quebecers fear it will result in less control and power over the instutions their community helped build. They also worry that merging all the boards into would could put English services at risk.

However, since the beginning, Health Minister Gaétan Barrette said he would protect the anglophone community.

Liberal MNA for Darcy McGee David Birnbaum has been working with the minister, Barrette on the bill.

"I'm extremely optimistic that the final bill will take care of the absolutely fundamental concerns of the English speaking community," he said.

Marathon debate

Members of the National Assembly have been taking part in a marathon debate since 10 a.m. on Friday. The bill passed just after midnight on Saturday.

Both the government and opposition accused each other of stalling the controversial health reform.

The governing Liberals used their majority to shut down the committee and take debate to the floor of the National Assembly.

'Very damaging to our institutions'

The president of the board for the MAB-Mackay Rehabilitation Centre in Montreal said the bill’s objectives to streamline the health-care system are legitimate, but they miss the target.

“What Bill 10 does to achieve that objective is totally, totally unnecessary and very damaging to our institutions and to our community,” Sara Saber-Freedman said, shortly after the bill was tabled.

She said the bill would allow the health minister to appoint a board for a health-care “mega-institution”, leaving the community cut off from control.

The province spends more than $30 billion on health care annually.

More reform coming

One of the reasons the government is rushing to get this legislation passed through is because it needs to pass before it can move forward with another major health bill.

Bill 20 would force doctors to take a mandatory minimum of patients and remove in vitro fertilization from public health insurance.

That bill is currently in committee hearings.