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Quebec has more health-care workers per capita than 30 years ago: IRIS

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There is no shortage of personnel when the entire health-care workforce, private and public, is taken into account, indicates a new study by the Institut de recherche et d'informations socioéconomiques (IRIS).

Rather, according to labour market data, there is an exodus of employees from the public to the private sector.

Anne Plourde, a researcher at IRIS who specializes in health-care policy, explains that the study, published on Tuesday, finds that the total health and social services workforce per capita, from both the public and private sectors, was 35 per cent higher in 2022 than 30 years ago.

According to the analysis, 132,000 more people are working in this sector than in 1991.

The IRIS study points out that people aged 65 and over represent 20 per cent of the population, but account for 47 per cent of health-care spending -- that is, 2.3 times their demographic weight.

The researcher notes that there is a shortage of nurses, but the number of doctors per capita is stable.

Plourde stresses that these two professions are pillars of the Quebec health-care system because they focus on curative care rather than prevention.

"We have a public discourse that is very focused on the fact that we have a shortage of manpower in health and social services, and this is often presented as an indisputable fact," Plourde said. "But when you analyze the data, it's more complex than you think. When you look at the workforce as a whole, including the private sector and the public sector, you actually see that there's more of a workforce now than in the last 30 years."

"In the public sector, there really has been a chronic shortage of manpower for many years," she adds.

Plourde says she believes that the three most recent reforms of the health-care system in Quebec have contributed to a decline in the quality of working conditions.

One example she points to is mandatory overtime in the public network, which has increased over the years.

She maintains that the proportion of total remuneration devoted to regular overtime -- not to be confused with compulsory overtime -- has risen from one to six per cent between 1991 and 2020.

She says she fears that the transfer of personnel from the public to the private sector will continue with the creation of Santé Québec.

-- The Canadian Press health content receives funding through a partnership with the Canadian Medical Association. The Canadian Press is solely responsible for editorial choices.

-- This report by The Canadian Press was first published in French on May 21, 2024.

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