The leader of the Quebec Liberal Party briefly paused her vacation on Wednesday to react to the news that two young emergency room doctors had quit their jobs in their hometown of Montreal to work in Toronto.
The married couple blames harsh working conditions and concerns about Bill 96 for the “difficult” decision.
“This is not a time when Quebec can afford to lose young doctors,” Dominique Anglade wrote in a statement.
The couple’s story shows, Anglade continued, that Legault’s “divisive policies are having a negative effect on health care in several ways” and that “the wait time in our emergencies increases every year, and our health workers They’re overwhelmed.” due to labor shortage.
A spokesman for Prime Minister Francois Legault told CTV News he would not comment on the story.
On Tuesday, CTV News reported that married specialists Dr. Daria Denissova and Dr. Philip Stasiak grappled with the decision to pack up and start a life elsewhere, especially since they had waited years for the opportunity to practice in Montreal, they said.
“Emotionally, financially, moving here and now moving back, and now we’re moving with two kids, it’s just complicated, it’s difficult, it’s disappointing,” Stasiak said.
After completing their residencies at McGill University, the couple took up positions in Toronto when no emergency slots were open in Montreal due to government hiring limitations, they said.
After the birth of their first child, they returned home to work at the Jewish General Hospital.
But Quebec’s new French language law, adopted in May, created several serious concerns for the trilingual couple, and they said it helped cement their decision to leave Montreal again, this time for good.
They said it was not yet clear how the law would be enforced at their hospital and questioned whether they would be allowed to communicate with patients in the language of their choice.
In an emailed response, Health Ministry spokeswoman Marie-Claude Lacasse wrote that “all English-speaking people have the right to receive health and social services in the English language, taking into account the organization and human, material and financial resources of the institutions that provide these services”.
Legal experts, however, have noted that the government has never defined who exactly is an “English speaker,” making it difficult to determine who falls under this provision, laid out in the Health and Social Services Act.
The couple also have personal concerns when it comes to House Bill 96, including the freedom to have their children educated in the language of their choice.
STRESSFUL WORKLOAD IN NUMBERS
The other major reason the couple is leaving Montreal is the intense workload compared to what they experienced when working in Toronto previously.
They say Montreal emergency rooms are “chronically understaffed” and “stressed,” describing too many shifts and an inflexible schedule that doesn’t allow them to care for their children.
The couple criticizes the limited number of PREM/PEM (Plan régional d’effectifs Médicaux) that the government grants to Montreal in particular, each of which represents a permit to practice.
“Sure we would welcome and benefit from more doctors, another ‘X’ number of doctors in our department, but we can’t,” Denissova said.
Lacasse argued that Montreal gets its share of PREM positions, referring to the designated permits for family doctors needed to work some shifts in emergency rooms.
Having more GPs would also help emergency rooms by reducing the number of people going to hospitals for help they can better provide, experts say.
“In 2022, Montreal secured 115 PREM positions (85 for new billers and 30 for practicing physicians),” Lacasse wrote.
That number sounds good until you break it down, says family doctor Mark Roper, who recently took the Ministry of Health to court to ask them to suspend the PREM system and make the distribution of doctors more equitable across the province.
“The MSSS [health ministry’s] The data itself shows that 71 doctors are retiring in Montreal and 13 family doctors will go to other regions, which represents a loss of 84,” explained Roper.
So that’s just a “net gain of 31 for the region,” Roper said — a big drop from the 85 new doctors Montreal is supposed to get on paper, and not enough, he said, to make a marked difference when it’s about working conditions and patient care.