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In Québec, health workers resist

04 June 2017
Quebec union members holding flags
For several years, access to free, universal, public health services, has been under threat in Québec. Consecutive neo-liberal governments have surpassed one another in undermining a system that Canadians were once proud of.

Given the increasing number of attacks on the right to health, the Alliance of Professional and Technical Staff of Health and Social Services (APTS) has developed an action plan to protect the population's access to quality services. As the main representative of professional and technical staff in Quebec, APTS is uniquely positioned to denounce unacceptable policies and propose solutions.

The social workers, educators, medical technologists and occupational therapists the union represents, among others, witness the ravages of austerity on health services and social services, on a daily basis. They are bravely fighting back against the severe attacks.

In recent months, the union has been at the forefront of defending the integrity of local community service centers (CLSCs), which offer a range of services to often vulnerable users. The government has decided to hand over areas covered by the CLSCs over to the family medicine groups (FMG), private entities operated by doctors. But, the FMGs do not cover the same clientele and do not offer the same range of services. The union is continuing the struggle.

The government has also tackled the laboratories, which carry out analyses of samples taken from patients. These samples are essential for diagnoses, including cancer. Health and Social Services Minister Gaétan Barrette has rushed through a plan (called OPTILAB) to centralize the analyses in a handful of laboratories without consulting the main stakeholders.

If this plan goes ahead, the samples will now travel hundreds of kilometers before reaching their destination. However, the more a sample travels, the more likely it is to become damaged. Fortunately, the APTS and its medical technologists, at the heart of the laboratory services, are keeping watch and have denounced the authoritarian methods of government to the Administrative Labor Tribunal. The union is still waiting for a decision on this matter.

The APTS has also been supporting the many struggles against budget cuts in services to the population. Billions of dollars have been cut in mental health, for the elderly and the youth in difficulty, among others. This year, the union is witnessing the government’s slight increase in reinvestment in services. The sustained pressure from the APTS has probably contributed to its taking this step.

In recent weeks, following a union allegiance campaign, the APTS has grown from 32,000 members to 52,000, which will give it even greater strength to make the voice of professional staff heard and for winning improved technical aspects of the Québec health and social services network.

By Carolle Dubé, President, Alliance of Professional and Technical Staff of Health and Social Services (APTS)

This article is an extract from the “Right to Health” newsletter issue 02/2017. Subscribe to the newsletter. Send us your stories.

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