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Patients' rights groups concerned about Quebec's health-care reforms

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Patients' rights committees are concerned they won't be heard at the top level of Quebec's proposed health care reform.

If adopted, Bill 15 (An Act to make the health and social services system more effective) would create Sante Quebec, a new crown corporation, which would oversee the day-to-day operations in the province's hospitals, clinics, long-term care homes and rehabilitation centres.

It would be run by a board of directors but groups point out the bill doesn't provide a guarantee a representative for patients at the table.

"If you believe in users' voices and what they have to contribute, losing that voice is regrettable and, in my view, indefensible," said Ingrid Kovitch with the MUHC (Montreal University Health Centre) users' committee.

She believes this could create a disconnect between what's actually happening in health-care facilities and decision-makers.

"Sante Quebec is already very far removed from individual institutions and more importantly from the users which means patients, families, caregivers," she said.

Most institutions in Quebec have their own users' committees to handle complaints, inform patients of their rights and make suggestions to improve services.

Initially, the bill abolished over 150 of them.

That decision was later reversed through amendments.

Sante Quebec's board of directors can consult users' committees, but long-time patient rights advocate Paul Brunet says it doesn't mean their views will be seriously considered.

"The director general can consult users' committees and decide what they will do but what I've seen with these nominations for the past 25 years are people who are very loyal (to the government) and who are not critical," he said.

Bill 15 has over 1,100 articles and is currently being studied at the national assembly.

Health Minister Christian Dube hasn't ruled out using closure to pass the bill before the end of the session in December.  

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