Quebec's ombudsman says the province's attempt to reform healthcare took its toll on the sick and the elderly.
Marie Rinfret did not mince words as she tabled her first report as ombudsman Thursday at the National Assembly, saying the reforms were rushed and ill-thought out, and often caused delays in treatment.
"All too often, lives were turned upside down because of these delays," said Rinfret. "This year people, often among society's most disadvantaged, paid the price for administrative reforms."
She said the most frequent cause of delays were bureaucratic reforms that were "cobbled together hastily."
Despite Quebec having more doctors per capita than the Canadian average, people with multiple existing conditions are waiting longer to be seen by a family doctor.
Rinfret said those people should be a high priority.
She said another "major issue" is seniors trying to get a spot in a long-term care facility, while a third problem is getting access to home care services.
Her report indicates the number of people receiving home care dropped one percent last year, while the length of time spent with each patient dropped seven percent over six years.
Health Minister Gaetan Barrette was embarrassed by the report.
"Each and every case should not happen, period. I'm not pleased in any way. It's quite a disappointment for me to see that this is still happening," said Barrette.
He said that the one silver lining is that since it was elected the Liberal government has followed earlier recommendations.
"Being better at decision-making and investing more money, which we did over the past three and a half years. There's been not one single year where we did not increase funding," said Barrette.
Parti Quebecois health critic Diane Lamarre said the ombudsman's conclusions are damning.
"This is a personal fight that these vulnerable people have to conduct to get minimal services that they need to have," said Lamarre, a notion that was echoed by Quebec Solidaire's Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois.
Right now we have an independent body that says your policies have failed. The numbers are clear. The examples are deeply concerning, so now Mr. Barrette has to recognize that it's not being partisan to say that his reforms have failed - it's an objective fact," said Nadeau-Dubois.
In the last year, complaints to the ombudsman about the health care system jumped by 26 percent, with most of those complaints based on service quality and wait times.