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Opinion: Universities are indispensable in reforming the health-care system


On March 29, the Minister of Health and Social Services (MSSS) tabled his plan to implement changes to the health-care system, centred on four themes: human resources, data access, information technologies and infrastructure modernization.

For Quebec’s faculties of medicine, which train future health professionals, revamping the health-care system must, above all, include training health-care personnel, promoting primary care and investing in teaching and research infrastructure.


The pandemic has highlighted staff shortages, especially in nursing and medicine. While the lack of family physicians, impending retirement of large numbers of personnel and difficulties accessing primary care have been the subject of numerous public statements, many specializations are also woefully understaffed.

Close collaboration between medical faculties and decision-makers is critical to properly plan workforce training in the coming decades across all sectors.

At the MSSS’ request, medical faculties will substantially expand capacity in their programs: from now until 2025, medicine admissions will rise to 1,050 per year, an increase of 26.5 per cent since 2019. These increases, combined with the impact of the pandemic will increase the workload in our campus and clinical educational institutions.


Another aspect of improving accessibility to care deserves special attention: strengthening frontlines through interprofessionalism. Training the next generation must be done in close collaboration with all those involved in every discipline related to patient care.

This new teaching model will require a collective effort from faculties, together with the MSSS, to promote the importance of primary care and patient care models, which involve a more sustained commitment from all health-care professions.

The reform should emphasize a more compassionate and human organization of health care. Medical faculties are already advocating for more active participation from patients, using the “patient-as-partner” approach, where the patient is central and part of shared decision-making.

This approach improves and humanizes care, while advancing practices through social innovation and research.


We must not forget the role universities play as drivers of change and innovation through basic, clinical and population-based research. While the work of research professors may sometimes take time to bear fruit, creating new knowledge is essential to respond to societal issues.

Consider the RNA biology underpinning COVID-19 vaccines, or AI algorithms and their multiple applications, discovered thanks to decades of work in neutral and independent research facilities.

Quebec’s scientific community must be able to count on universities to pursue research in areas not explored by industry.


For two centuries, medical faculties have been major players in Quebec’s health network. Major changes in medical practice initiated by our faculty members have enabled teaching hospitals to develop modern infrastructure. These recent developments have had a significant impact on the quality of training provided to our students, and to the care delivered to the public.

Much remains to be done to modernize hospital and university infrastructure, which is often obsolete.

Improving training, increasing student numbers and maintaining and developing research teams requires major investment in the infrastructure.

We are heartened to see that staff training is at the top of the 50 measures listed in the reform plan and substantial investment has been announced to modernize health-care infrastructure.

It is crucial that Minister Dubé take into account the needs of universities in his action plan and that he continue the dialogue with our governing bodies, in collaboration with the Minister of Higher Education, so that we can continue pursuing our mission to build knowledge and prepare new generations to meet society’s health needs.

  • Dr. Patrick Cossette, Dean of the Faculty of Medicine at the Université de Montréal and President of the Conférence des doyens des facultés de médecine du Québec of the Bureau de coopération interuniversitaire


  • Dr. Dominique Dorion, Dean of the Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences at the Université de Sherbrooke
  • Dr. David Eidelman, Vice-Principal (Health Affairs)
  • Dean of the Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences at McGill University
  • Dr. Julien Poitras, Dean of the Faculty of Medicine at Université Laval. Top Stories

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