The FMSQ Demands the Withdrawal of Bill 130 and Announces Legal Action

Montreal, May 25, 2017 — The Ministère de la Santé et des Services sociaux (MSSS) multiplies the number of new rules and directives it imposes on medical specialists. Some of these directives affect the freedom to practise and the professional independence of physicians and are prejudicial to patients. In these circumstances, the Fédération des médecins spécialistes du Québec (FMSQ) demands that Bill 130 be withdrawn. The FMSQ has retained the services of a special consultant, Me Lucien Bouchard of the firm Davies Ward Phillips & Vineberg LLP, which has been mandated to undertake legal proceedings.

The FMSQ does not claim that physicians should not have any obligations, but rather that they are already held to obligations by virtue of existing laws and to their code of ethics. However, the Federation does not accept a Bill that grants additional powers of all kinds to the Minister without any accountability. Because of the uncertain and arbitrary nature of the proposed measures, we can expect that Bill 130 will impose unacceptable obligations on physicians that would be detrimental to good medical practice.


Absolute Power, Healthcare at Risk

The Federation reckons that Bill 130 attacks the ability of physicians to dispense services and care to the population. "The public must realize that decisions that can affect a patient in his local hospital are taken at a distance by the Minister or a public servant in Quebec City," explained the President of the FMSQ, Dr Diane Francœur.

At the parliamentary committee hearings, the FMSQ had already made it know that it feared major blunders in the field : (TRANSLATED EXTRACT) "To replace family doctors who will no longer be present at the hospital, will a medical specialist be asked to, for example, take over the care of a patient with a medical condition that is not covered by his principal specialty or that he has not treated in a long time, due to his cutting-edge expertise ?"

"Unfortunately, our fears have been confirmed," declared the President, who referred to the case of a hospital in the metropolitan region where management warmly thanked medical specialists for having accepted patients with diagnoses not directly related to their specialty. "The public will understand that this is completely contrary to good medical practice."


Centralization and Absurd Situations

The FMSQ had also warned the members of the parliamentary committee that directives had been sent to physicians by MSSS representatives and by healthcare institutions who acted as if Bill 130 had already been adopted. This constitutes a potential violation of the rights and privileges of Members of the National Assembly of Quebec. Dr Francœur has invited MNAs from opposition parties, as well as MNAs on the government's side, to make sure, in their role of legislator, that basic rules are respected and are not transgressed either by a Minister or by the Ministry in his charge.

Previously, hospital managers made decisions according to the needs of the local population and available resources. Today, institutional managers are under the dictatorial authority of the MSSS. Examples of interventionism are multiplying; the Deputy Assistant Minister even went so far as to insist that a medical specialist, infected with a contagious disease, obtain a medical certificate before authorizing his replacement.

Other examples result from Minister Barrette's directives to institutions, including the camouflage of patients to unburden emergency rooms. According to Dr Francœur, "Of course, this aims to improve statistics in advance of the next elections, but this kind of ill-timed directive makes us fear an increase in the spread of infectious disease and a rapid loss of control if the pressure from the ER increases on hospital floors."


Operation CODE RED

Assembled on May 13th at the Olympic Stadium, as well as via webcast, 3,000 medical specialists discussed neither money nor ongoing negotiations with the government. They strongly reiterated their willingness to work for their patients, according to their competencies and without a ministerial straight-jacket. Since this Grand Assembly, the FMSQ is flooded with messages from members working in the various regions of Quebec. Physicians are being asked to sign documents detailing endless requirements. They are refused temporary privileges, which would allow them to act as substitutes in order to avoid the non-staffing of services. Parental leaves are refused. Physicians are pressured to give accounts regarding the volume of patients treated, as if it was a production line, a race to greater productivity. "The practice of medicine has never before been under the thumb of public servants," deplores Dr Francœur.

According to the FMSQ, Gaétan Barrette has dared describe Bill 130 as an invitation to cooperate. The aim of his bill is rather to implement a system of absolute control over medical practice. "We are determined to quash this approach which harms the provision of services to patients and to go ahead with legal proceedings," concluded Dr Francœur.


Founded Legal Actions

For Me Lucien Bouchard, the cogency of the legal proceedings undertaken by the FMSQ is undoubted and formal demands have already been served, in particular on the Assistant Deputy Minister, Michel A. Bureau, and the chairpersons of hospital boards as well as CEOs of hospital centres.

Invited to speak during Operation CODE RED, Me Bouchard was clear : "If there is one fundamental aspect that is threatened today, it is your capacity to discharge your professional duties correctly, suitably and in line with the standards that govern your profession. What is at stake here is your capacity to fulfill your role of physician in the provision of healthcare services. The government must provide the legal, financial and logistical framework to support and facilitate a quality medical practice, in order to ensure that medical practice can be done correctly. It is not supposed to interfere with it, to block it, to strangle it, or to bury it under tons of regulations. We live in a society of rights and a Minister cannot do anything he wants. In particular, he cannot violate our laws. He cannot attack the fundamental rights that are yours. In fact, you are called to fight against demagoguery, to battle against disinformation, to strive for quality care, to contribute to the restoration of a respectful and human climate in the healthcare network in Quebec."

The Fédération des médecins spécialistes du Québec represents more than 10,000 medical specialists certified in one of 59 recognized medical specialties.