Gaétan Barrette’s health care revolution: what you need to know

Some are calling it a “revolution.” But whatever you label it, an overhaul of Quebec’s health care system is underway.

How could these changes affect your health care?

Health Minister Gaétan Barrette introduced a number of measures to change how health care is provided in Quebec. (CBC)

Some are calling it a “revolution.” But whatever you label it, an overhaul of Quebec’s health care system is underway. The minister of health, Gaétan Barrette, says it’s all about saving money and improving services and access for patients.

The radiologist-turned-politician has three measures in front of the National Assembly that he needs to pass in order for his changes to come into effect.

Here's what they are about and how close they are to passing:

Bill 10: restructuring the bureaucracy

This bill worries the anglophone community on two fronts. It abolishes the boards of individual health institutions, mainly hospitals, and merges them into 28 regional boards, called Centres intégrés de santé et de services sociaux (CISSS). 

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

However, since the beginning, the minister has said he would protect the anglophone community.

He has made amendments to protect the bilingual status of anglophone health institutions and representation on the new regional boards. He says the community will continue to retain power and control over assets and fundraising. But we will not know until it has passed whether advocates for the English-speaking community feel Barrette’s changes go far enough.

The government says the restructuring will save $200 million a year.

Bill 20: access to family doctors and IVF treatment

Status: Introduced in November, heading to committee hearings

This bill has two parts. The first is focused on increasing Quebecers’ access to family doctors:

  • Requires doctors to take on a minimum number of patients.
  • Requires specialists to offer consultations beyond emergency rooms.
  • Docks the pay of doctors who do not follow these rules.

The second part addresses assisted procreation services:

  • No longer covers assisted procreation services, like in vitro fertilization, except for artificial insemination.
  • Prohibits women under 18 and over 42 from receiving in vitro fertilization.
  • Adds rules for in vitro fertilization services.
  • Adds fertility preservation services to health coverage.
  • Tightens rules around assisted procreation research.

Bill 28: prescriptions and pharmacies

Status: Introduced in November; committee hearings underway

This is actually a bill that contains a mixed bag of measures cutting across several ministries, including health. One of the main areas it targets is prescriptions and pharmacies. The bill:

  • Allows pharmacists to renew common prescriptions, such as birth control pills, aspirin, and glucose strips.
  • Saves the government about $130 million dollars a year.
  • The Association of Quebec Pharmacy Owners says the bill reduces fees by $177 million and that the cut could result in reduced pharmacy hours and job losses.


Ryan Hicks is in his final year as a law student at McGill University and is a former Quebec political correspondent for the CBC. In 2018, he won the Amnesty International Media Award for his reporting from Guatemala about the root causes of migration from Central America to the United States.