Negotiations Regarding the Application of Act 20 : Agreement in Principle Approved by the FMSQ's Governing Bodies

Montreal, November 12, 2015 – Called to a special meeting in Quebec City, the delegates of the 35 medical associations affiliated with the Fédération des médecins spécialistes du Québec (FMSQ) have approved the agreement in principle reached with Quebec's Minister of Health and Social Services. The agreement came at the end of several months of negotiations and followed on the heels of the tabling of Bill 20 and its adoption, on November 10th, by the National Assembly.

"This law was useless !" said the President of the FMSQ, Dr Diane Francœur, to start with. "We were already working with the representatives of the Ministère de la Santé et des Services sociaux (MSSS) to improve access to care in specialized medicine before the Minister even decided to present his surprise Bill."

Increase and Improve Access to Specialized Medical Care

"We have always said that medical specialists were ready to do more and that it was possible to succeed through negotiations, without resorting to legislation. Once again, we have proven our good faith and we are proud of it because the winners are the people," continued the President.

The agreement in principle covers the four accessibility measures targeted by Act 20 : improving access to specialized consultations within the delays associated to the clinical priority of a patient, decreasing delays relative to specialized consultations requested by the emergency services within an institution, increasing the rate of case handling of hospitalized patients by medical specialists acting as attending physicians, and prioritizing surgical procedures for patients on a waiting list for more than a year. "These four measures are combined with specific targets and we will be deploying the efforts needed to reach them," added the President.

The agreement also involves the government's commitment, not only that of the Health Minister, to not apply Section 39 with only one exception, which we do not find justified, involving the issue of diagnostic ultrasound, a subject for which we have already proposed appropriate solutions to improve accessibility.

As was the case with Bill 10, Bill 20 became the object of a hundred or so amendments which were tabled, then adopted while the project was being studied in detail by the parliamentary committee. These amendments resulted in the initial text of the Bill being substantially changed and the final text, as adopted by the National Assembly, still not available to the public. Numerous questions remain without answers, while explanations and further details are needed as we move along. This being the case, the Federation will continue negotiating with the Ministry regarding its application.

An Unacceptable Law and the Denigration of Physicians

This law remains totally unacceptable, in both form and content. The coercive and enormous powers the Minister has arrogated to himself make up a potentially explosive cocktail.

"The Minister's way of doing things is not a guarantee of better access to care. It's through collaboration and adequate conditions of practice that we will succeed," continues the President of the FMSQ, Dr Diane Francœur. "We have long insisted on the necessity for medical specialists to have access to outpatient clinics, to operating rooms and to hospital beds to care for their patients. Moreover, this agreement encompasses a commitment by the MSSS to contribute to improving the practice environment for medical specialists. Otherwise, all of this will have been just a show, a manoeuvre with an electoral tangent."

"We were also witness to a very sad spectacle at the parliamentary committee, in the National Assembly and in the public arena. The official opposition contributed substantially to this "doctor-bashing." We were an easy target and the motivation was strictly political," concluded Dr Francœur.

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