(Montreal) If Quebec really wants to put the patient at the heart of its major reform of the health network, users will have to be given a stronger voice. This is what several invited speakers demanded on Thursday to comment on Bill 15 in parliamentary committee.

On the second day of special consultations on Bill 15, the Act to make the health and social services system more efficient, parliamentarians heard from the patient director and co-scientific director at the Center of Excellence on Partnership with patients and the public (CEPPP), Vincent Dumez.

While welcoming the bill as a whole, he said he was worried about the risk of seeing the defense of users’ rights weakened by the reduction in the number of users’ committees as well as by a possible loss of independence of the future governing boards versus current boards of directors.

Vincent Dumez mainly defended the concept of partner users, who currently number some 1,500 in Quebec. These are people with serious illnesses who have a long experience as patients.

“They are experts in their pathology and in navigating the network,” he argued. In his view, these patients are among the best placed to offer concrete solutions that have a considerable impact on access to care.

Yet these patient partners are absent from the bill. No role is entrusted to them in the organization chart submitted by the Minister of Health Christian Dubé.

Dr. Antoine Groulx, family physician, accompanied Mr. Dumez. He concluded his intervention by calling on elected officials to “let a little more humanism and benevolence enter” into the bill by listening to patients.

In the afternoon, it was the Council for the Protection of the Sick (CPM) which took up the torch, asserting that “we are witnessing a form of erosion of citizen participation” and demanding a user committee to each care facility with an adequate budget to fulfill its role.

The CPM demanded greater citizen representation by asking that user representatives be elected and not appointed by Santé Québec.

A request to which Minister Christian Dubé seemed to want to accede.

In its brief, the CPM also suggested the possibility of playing the role of the National Users’ Committee created by the new law in order to avoid erecting a new structure. The organization is most concerned about the “oversight” function of local committees entrusted to the national committee.

The Minister of Health introduced Bill 15 last month. The voluminous document of nearly 1,200 articles provides in particular for the creation of a new state corporation called Santé Québec.

This new structure will be responsible for coordinating the operations of the Quebec health network, while the ministry will retain its role of setting guidelines and allocating budgets.

At the end of the afternoon, Thursday, the Provincial Regrouping of User Committees and the Regrouping of Complaints and Quality Commissioners of Quebec were to address the elected officials of the Health and Social Services Commission.