Quebec eliminates independent health watchdog
'Are we being punished because we are too good?' asks province's former health and welfare commissioner
Robert Salois, Quebec's former health and welfare commissioner, is slamming the province after his position and organization were abolished under last week's provincial budget.
"Are we being punished because we were too good? Are we being punished because we tackled topics that were too 'touchy?'" Salois asked.
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The independent health watchdog — which was created by Quebec Premier Philippe Couillard when he was health minister in 2006 — published annual reports on the performance of the healthcare system.
At the time, Couillard said the commission played "an important role" in ensuring Quebecers had proper access to healthcare.
The commission was tasked with pointing out gaps in health and social services across Quebec, and also examined how Quebec's system compares to others in Canada.
The reports were often critical, highlighting flaws within the public system. A March 2015 report, for instance, found that Quebec's drug plan is unsustainable.
The elimination of the commission means it will be harder to evaluate and strengthen the performance of the Quebec's healthcare system, Salois told CBC's Breakaway.
"There will be no more organization that will be totally independent," he said.
Studies, reports unfinished
Work previously done by the commission will now be handled by the health ministry and health research institute.
"It's the independence of our institution that gives it its pertinence and its power," Salois, who had held the position since 2006.
Salois says he had "a table full of material" to study, evaluate and criticize that he believes is "crucial" to improving the healthcare system.
"They will certainly not be able to do that in an independent way, that's for sure," Salois told Breakaway.
The commission was in the midst of investigating emergency room performances, the salaries of doctors and the quality of residences for seniors before it was abolished.
"We don't know if we'll be able to continue them," Salois said.
Prior to the budget, Salois says he was not giving any indication or warning that his office would close down.
A government employee called to tell Salois, but he says he wasn't given any explanation or justification for disbanding the office of 23 staff members.
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"We're having a hard time understanding what just happened to us," said Salois. "We don't understand the decision."
Quebec opposition was also quick to criticize the decision, with Parti Québécois health critic Diane Lamarre saying it was dangerous.
The Quebec Medical Association, which represents 10,000 doctors across the province, is also opposed to move.
With files from la Presse Canadienne