Proposed reforms to on-the-job injury laws a 'flagrant setback' for workers: healthcare coalition

File photo. (CTV)

Healthcare professionals are alarmed over proposed reforms to occupational health and safety, which they are calling “a flagrant setback” for Quebec's workers.

A coalition of workers in the healthcare sector are speaking out to defend the right of injured workers to access rehabilitation, saying if Bill 59 passes, treatment could be denied to thousands of people suffering from occupational injuries.

The group of nearly 7,000 researchers, acupuncturists, chiropractors, physiotherapists, occupational therapists in private practice, psychologists and psycho-educators called for a scientific committee to be established to deal with rehabilitation issues.

In a declaration of principles addressed to Labour Minister Jean Boulet, they called for scientific principles to guide reform, rather than financial imperatives.

“This is a bill that doesn't follow the recommendations of researchers, associations or professionals in the field,” said Federation of physiotherapy clinics president Pascal Gagnon.

Other health professionals and unions have also criticized the government for flouting science in the bill.

“If the bill passes as is, it will be a pretty glaring setback for workers,” said Gagnon.

The bill outlines regulations that would set limits on treatment for injured workers, with the decisions and treatments being made by the CNESST. But the healthcare professionals said arbitrary limits to treatment would not solve health problems.

“For physiotherapy, for occupational therapy, after a certain number of sessions, it will be over, regardless of the results,” said Gagnon. “The CNESST can't take the place of professional orders.”

Denis Pelletier, president of Quebec's Order of physiotherapists, echoed the sentiment, saying “You can't say an amputation is 12 weeks of rehabilitation and a fracture is X weeks.”

The experts pointed out that factors specific to each individual case but be taken into account, such as income, education, personal relationships and work position.

They also said the bill ignores chronic problems that can arise due to delays in treatment.

Quebec Alliance of Health and Social Services Professionals president Michel Clair said the bill will end up costing more in the long run, as a worker who needs 18 treatments but only receives the 10 permitted by the bill will end up in the healthcare network.

Bill 59 is aimed at reforming the current system to reduce costs, which is currently assumed 100 per cent by employers. The CNESST paid out $2.2 billion worth of benefits in 2018, recording 103,406 on-the-job injuries and 226 deaths.  

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