Duclos should demand fully transferable health benefits for Quebecers | OP / ED


The COVID-19 pandemic has taught us to never let our guard down. However, a beneficial unintended consequence is that it could finally get Quebecers to be granted the same transferable health benefits as other Canadians.

In June, Manitoba suddenly had the highest rate of new cases in North America. The Canadian Armed Forces provided assistance and the province transferred 51 patients to Ontario, two to Saskatchewan and two to Alberta. Very recently there has been another surge. Manitoba has reported more new cases per day since mid-June and now has the highest case rate by capital of any province.

For several months, Saskatchewan was the major epicenter of the Canadian pandemic. In October, there were more residents per capita in intensive care beds than any other province at any time during the pandemic. The CAF helped again and, by early November, 27 patients had been transferred to intensive care units in Ontario. Unfortunately, five of these patients died, including an emergency physician.

The Yukon, despite a very high vaccination rate and the most generous paid sick leave benefits in Canada, suffered severe outbreaks of COVID-19 cases in late June and again in early November.

Children will soon be vaccinated and high-risk groups will receive boosters. Yet while vaccines are crucial, all the tools in the toolkit must be used to tackle this pandemic, including paid sickness benefits, social distancing, mandatory masks in some overcrowded interior areas, and the ability to transfer sick patients to intensive care units in other provinces. Quebec must be included.

The portability provisions of the Canada Health Act should make this possible. For example, the Ottawa Hospital receives – over and above the funding provided by Ontario – for all out-of-province patients a daily fee of $ 4,848. This sum is ultimately reimbursed by the province or territory of the patient’s residence.

Quebeckers are fortunate to be part of Canada. For example, Health Sciences North in Sudbury charges “non-residents of Canada” such as Americans $ 8,762 per day in intensive care and the Ottawa Hospital charges $ 7,275. This does not include doctors’ fees.

Due to the Reciprocal Medical Billing Agreement (RMBA) – signed by all provinces and territories and most provinces – physicians can bill their own provincial health care plans, receive their regular fees, and their own ministries of health. Health then takes those from the patient. It thus meets the requirements of section 11 of the Canada Health Act, which was adopted unanimously in 1984. All of the members from Quebec voted in favor.

Yet Quebec continued to ignore this portion of the CHA. His patients usually have to pay the doctor directly and after several weeks receive partial reimbursement from their own province. For several decades, all the federal ministers of health have been reluctant to force Quebec to obey the law.

After decades of inaction by all politicians, the “stars can align”. The new federal Minister of Health, Jean-Yves Duclos, and the Conservative spokesperson for health, Luc Berthold, are both from Quebec. As a lasting legacy to their fellow Quebecers, they should put aside partisan politics and strongly encourage Christian Dubé, Quebec Minister of Health and Social Services, to sign the Reciprocity Agreement on Medical Billing.

Duclos, while at the London School of Economics, spoke of “fairness” in his doctoral thesis and in many subsequent publications. He must surely understand that his fellow Quebecers are treated as “second class citizens” when they fall ill unexpectedly and need medical care in another province or territory.

Quebec, like Ontario, now has the highest number of new cases in two months. With the emergence of a new variant and a sharp increase in severe cases occurring in Quebec, the fully transferable benefits of physicians would facilitate the transfer of patients to hospitals in other provinces. In addition, Quebecers would benefit from accessible medical care across Canada when traveling on business or visiting friends and relatives.

Justin Trudeau should include this issue in his mandate letter to Jean-Yves Duclos – concrete action that would benefit his constituents and promote national unity.

As Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe recently noted, “Fortunately, we live in a country where the provinces can help each other. “

Doctor Charles S. Shaver, an Ottawa physician, was born in Montreal. He is a graduate of Princeton University and the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, and is the past chair of the Section of General Internal Medicine at the Ontario Medical Association. The opinions here are his.

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