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Safety Ratios: a trade union battle

15 March 2017
Régine Laurent, President of FIQ, Quebec
For the health care workers represented by the Fédération Interprofessionnelle de la santé du Québec (FIQ), it is absolutely essential to work in the best conditions so as to provide safe, quality health care. As a health care workers’ union, the FIQ has therefore decided to work with its members to promote safe professional patient health care ratios in Québec.

Chronic under-funding and major, hasty structural reforms have led to the visible deterioration of the public health care service in Quebec. Health care workers, then patients, are the first to suffer the consequences of the dismantling of the service. Increasingly precarious working conditions endanger the provision of health care to patients.

Respect for the right to health requires, at a minimum, the presence of health care workers in sufficient numbers. But budgetary constraints too often require managers of public health establishments to adopt unsatisfactory staffing strategies. These strategies, which include compulsory overtime, have a negative impact on health care. It has been shown many times that a chronic lack of staff has considerable harmful effects on patients. Studies on nursing, for example, show that insufficient staffing increases the risk of hospital-acquired infections, falls, readmissions and pressure sores.

From this perspective, health care workers form part of a vital patient monitoring system. However, in the context of a chronic lack of staff, they cannot use all their expertise when taking health care decisions. They do not have the authority to decide on the deployment of health care teams to provide safe, quality health care.

Ratios that require a minimum allocation of health care staff, below which the safety of patients would be seriously compromised, would put an end to the current use of arbitrary funding considerations by managers of Quebec’s public health care service.

In October 2016, in cooperation with the International Francophone Nursing Secretariat (SIDIIEF), the FIQ held a unique international symposium on safe health care. It brought together female colleagues from Australia, the United States and Quebec to discuss the issue and recent developments in the field. The event concluded that the current health service is not “incurable” and can be treated.

The FIQ believes that the remedy requires trade unions to fight for social change. The introduction of safe ratios in our public health care service must be led not only by health care workers, but also by the public as a whole.

The FIQ is a trade union that represents health care professionals in Quebec, including the great majority of female nurses, auxiliary female nurses, respiratory therapists and clinical perfusionists working in Quebec’s public health care establishments.

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