Despite Prime Minister François Legault’s assurances that Bill will not prevent 96 Anglophones and immigrants from receiving treatment in the language of their choice, health care providers, including doctors, remain concerned.
Posted at 7:00 am
In a press conference on Wednesday afternoon, the Coalition for Quality Health and Social Services (CSSSQ), which includes organizations revolving around the Jewish General Hospital and McGill University Health Center and says it has the support of 700 physicians, reiterated its wish that the network of health and social services are exempt from the law.
“The Prime Minister tells us that nothing will change for the network [avec le projet de loi 96]† If this is really the case, why shouldn’t health and social services be excluded from the law? asks attorney Eric Maldoff, president of the CSSSQ.
In February, 500 members of the CSSSQ wrote a letter to the government stating that Bill 96 “could endanger people’s lives”. In a separate letter, the Council for Services to Children and Adolescents at Montreal Children’s Hospital (CSEA) also expressed concern about the “adverse impact” the bill could have on childcare.
This latest letter, signed by several doctors, recalls that the Montreal Children’s Hospital “offers its services in more than 32 languages to serve an increasingly diverse community in Quebec.” One of the signatories, child intensivist Saleem Razack, explained in an interview last week to: The press that “to deliver good medicine, you need good communication with the patient” and with his family.
the dr Razack points out that several studies have already shown that the risk of, for example, medication errors and falls is greater in patients “who have language barriers”. “Bill 96 should not put these patients at greater risk,” he said.
Quebec wants to be reassuring
On Tuesday, Prime Minister François Legault deplored the “misinformation” surrounding Bill 96. He assured that there would be no impact on health services and that Anglophones and immigrants could be treated in the language of their choice.
In the office of the Justice Minister, Simon Jolin-Barrette, it is stated that “Bill 96 will in no way prevent a citizen from receiving adequate treatment”.
mand For his part, Maldoff notes that articles stipulate that services in the network of health and social services must be provided in French, except for certain exceptional clients, such as immigrants who have settled in Quebec for less than six months.
Failure to communicate effectively can have serious consequences. We talk about diagnosis, follow-up of postoperative instructions […] Now is not the time to put a burden on caregivers.
Eric Maldoff, President of the CSSSQ
Mr Jolin-Barrette’s press attaché, Élisabeth Gosselin, indicates that the bill contains 96 different exceptions. For example, one article states that a language other than French may be used in public services “when health, public safety or the principles of natural justice so require”.
However, this exception is considered vague by the CSSSQ. mand Maldoff adds that while the exception speaks of “health,” it ignores “social services.” He believes the exceptions allowed will be “very restrictive”. “I think the ‘health’ exception is only applied when there is an emergency […], he said. We are accused of disinformation. On the contrary, I want to enter into a dialogue. Because there are problems in the law. †
Stéphane Beaulac, a law professor at the University of Montreal and head of the faculty at the National Observatory of Linguistic Rights, does not share the concerns of groups of doctors. “I’m not alarmed at all,” he said.
Mr Beaulac recalled that Bill 96 is not yet in its final stages and amendments may still be made. Admittedly, the exception for “health reasons” remains vague. “But that leaves a margin through which modulation can be applied in a reasonable way,” he says. For him, the exception is provided precisely to avoid “the diligent application and without humanitarian consideration” of the law.