Competition with private enterprise would reform healthcare system: Quebec Conservative Party

Quebec Conservative Party Leader Eric Duhaime speaks at a news conference, Friday, June 18, 2021 at the legislature in Quebec City. MNA Claire Samson, not shown, announced she was leaving the Coalition Avenir Quebec government to join the Quebec Conservative Party and become the first member to sit at the legislature. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jacques Boissinot

The salvation of the public health care system will come through private enterprise, according to the Quebec Conservative Party (QCP).

To improve healthcare for Quebecers, party leader Eric Duhaime says he would promote competition between the private and public sectors and foreign private investment.

According to the QCP, the contribution of private enterprise should be at the heart of health system reform -- and if those companies make a profit, all the better.

Without direct competition between the public network and private enterprise, "everything will fail," said Dr. Karim Elayoubi, the QCP's lead health spokesperson and candidate for Argenteuil.

"We want foreign investors to use their financial capital, their intelligent capital, to come here" and build private hospitals and clinics, he said.

He said competition must become "the central tool" available to the government to "attract investors" who would eventually want to not only build hospitals, but manage them.

Elayoubi spoke in Quebec City at a Saturday colloquium organized by the QCP.

According to him, the QCP's proposal doesn't contradict the principles enshrined in the Canada Health Act, notably those related to universality. A court challenge would therefore seem "unlikely," he argues.

The party's proposed changes would cause the public health network to organize itself and become more efficient, having "no choice but to adapt to its competitor."

The Conservatives want Quebecers to be able to purchase private insurance (known as "duplicate" insurance) for services and care already offered by the Régie de l'assurance maladie (RAMQ).

For example, a patient waiting for surgery with private insurance could choose to be treated in a private clinic if there's too long a wait for public services.

In principle, part of the bill would be covered by the insurance company. Tax credits could eventually be made available.

But this raises the question of accessibility: not everyone would be able to afford private insurance. People who are doubly insured could therefore have an advantage over others.

The PCQ argues this private insurance would be accessible to middle-income groups and would help free up waiting lists for public services.

According to Elayoubi, who denounced the "pseudo-universality" of the existing network, the current system is "elitist" because right now, only the wealthy have access to private clinics.

To make the system work, the Conservatives are counting on a series of major changes, such as allowing doctors to move from public to private practice from one day to the next, which is currently prohibited.

The PCQ also wants to significantly increase the number of doctors in the province, aiming to train 300 to 500 more medical students each year.

The Conservatives also promise to review the way hospitals are funded, an idea that has been floated by other parties for years; the more patients a hospital treats, the more funding they would receive.

Saturday's conference attracted a few hundred activists, both on-site and virtual. Other speakers included Maria Lily Shaw, an economist at the Montreal Economic Institute, Norma Khozhaya, vice-president of research and chief economist at the Conseil du patronat du Québec, as well as Michel Kelly-Gagnon, CEO of the Montreal Economic Institute, and conservative essayist Joanne Marcotte.

The PCQ is on the rise, according to the latest polls. The party's leader, Éric Duhaime, made a brief appearance at the end of the conference to say that health care is likely to be the central issue in the next election campaign.

This report was first published in French by The Canadian Press on April 30, 2022.  

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