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Quebec unveils major plan to reform health-care system ahead of election

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Quebec Health Minister Christian Dubé unveiled a major plan Tuesday to reform the province's health-care system, with a focus on reducing emergency room wait times, improving access to front-line care and bettering working conditions for nurses.

"Our vision, and we've always had the same vision, is to take better care of patients," he said, alongside Junior Health Minister Lionel Carmant.

The government stated it needs to find a way to recruit, train and keep personnel in order to ensure this better access for patients.

Dubé notes he wants to hire at least 1,000 nurses from out of province and add 3,000 administrative employees.

Some of the proposed changes include solutions to stop Quebecers from having to wait longer than 90 minutes in a hospital's emergency room by creating command centres, as well as eliminating mandatory overtime and giving more power to nurses, pharmacists and paramedics.

This would allow health-care professionals to "direct patients to the right care and the right professional instead of simply transporting them to the emergency room."

The creation of a professional order to this effect is on the table. 

The Coalition Avenir Quebec (CAQ) says it also plans to set up a phone line (GAP) to put people in touch with health-care professionals for consultations, seemingly moving away from a key election promise of assuring each Quebecer is ultimately assigned a family doctor.

There are currently almost a million people waiting to be paired with a family physician in Quebec.

"We can discuss with the doctor. We can say, 'Maybe with you we need one per cent more' because sometimes a doctor will see, say, 100 patients in a week," Dubé said. "To ask him to see two or three patients more in a week is not very much, but it can make a big difference for the people who, on that day, will need a doctor."

Quebec is also proposing a collaboration with private medical clinics to reduce wait times for surgeries, which have only grown longer since the beginning of the pandemic.

"We've seen, in the last two years during the pandemic, things we don't want to go through again," said Dubé. "We don't want to live through being dependent on the system, we don't want to force people to do things they don't want to do because the system could not follow the pandemic."

When it comes to technology, the government is proposing an "ambitious plan" to modernize the programs used to simplify administrative tasks and allow all Quebecers to have complete access to their medical files.

Quebec Premier François Legault was expected to attend the press conference but had to take a step back following his positive COVID-19 diagnosis.

Seniors Minister Marguerite Blais, who was also scheduled to attend, is currently waiting for her COVID-19 test results.

The announcement comes just months ahead of the provincial election, which is slated for Monday, Oct. 3.

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