Editorial

A humane healthcare system more attuned to people’s needs

A humane healthcare system more attuned to people’s needs

In his inaugural address, Premier Legault alluded to the “demoralizing” effect that successive reforms, budget instability, rigid management and cumbersome administrative practices have had on health and social services personnel. If I’m not mistaken, that’s the first time a politician has acknowledged this.

December 18, 2018 | “We have to reverse this trend,” he declared, stressing the point. “In health care, our concern has to be for those who are sick. I invite government ministers and public employees to be attentive to people’s needs and act with HUMANITY at all times [his emphasis].”

I’m highlighting these declarations not because I wish to flatter their author but because they attest to a change in tone at the highest level of government – a change of tone that the new minister of health and social services was the first to evoke.

Such statements imply a radical change of approach from what we saw in recent years. Re-establishing a spirit of collaboration will be an enormous challenge. The bar is set high, and much will be expected of the new government.

Minister McCann is taking active steps to get a handle on what’s been happening in the healthcare system up until now. She has met with service users, professional orders, medical specialists and union representatives. She already has a few decisions under her belt that fit with her boss’s aim of acting with “humanity.”

I had the opportunity to meet with her on December 14. She seemed to me to be sincere in her desire to promote an approach that is the polar opposite of her predecessor’s. Her attitude gives us a glimpse of a positive change in governance that we hope will survive the tribulations of difficult trade-offs and critical choices.

The minister will also have to work at regaining the trust of health and social services personnel. Besides the successive reforms and countless budget cuts that we’ve had to navigate, the government’s systematic approach of turning a deaf ear has had devastating effects on the morale of our members.

Work overload, psychological distress and erosion of our professional autonomy are problems that we have repeatedly denounced and that require long-lasting solutions. It makes absolutely no sense that the personnel providing care are the ones who now need care in turn.

These past four years, because of our government counterpart, we had no other choice: public denunciations and confrontation were the only channels open to us to express our positions. Any approach based on dialogue and collaboration was blocked. These channels of communication now seem to have been reopened. This is clearly a good thing, as we now find ourselves with a wider range of alternatives.

This means that we can re-engage in a broader, more strategic, more nuanced and comprehensive union approach, which is definitely an advantage with the upcoming round of provincial public-sector contract talks just around the corner – an approach with an array of possibilities that include blowing the whistle, rallying support, making demands, working collaboratively and making constructive proposals –while honouring our mandate to promote and defend our members’ interests.

If there’s a greater readiness to listen and collaborate in the health and social services sector, a more humane approach will necessarily follow. We’re striving for that.

by CAROLLE DUBÉ | december 18,  2018

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