Quebec Turns to Net to Improve Health Care

The Internet will allow patients to become "health consumers," the province's health minister said at the Quebec Liberal party's general council meeting on Saturday.

LAVAL, Que. — The Internet will allow patients to become “health consumers,” the province’s health minister said at the Quebec Liberal party’s general council meeting on Saturday.

Soon, patients needing surgery will be able to surf the Net to find out which hospitals have the shortest waiting lists, Philippe Couillard said.

The goal is to reduce hospital waiting lists and give patients more control over their health, he said.

“It will show the patient what is really going on in the system. [He or she] can act like a consumer.

“As a health consumer, you have the right to know how your region is performing in comparison with others. You have the right to have the possibility, the choice, to be operated on elsewhere.”

Once informed what the normal wait for surgery was, patients would have a choice: wait and be operated on by their doctor in their region or go to a region where they would face a shorter wait.

Computerizing the entire health system is another government priority, Mr. Couillard said.

It would allow health centres like hospitals and clinics to rapidly exchange patient information like test results or pharmacological profiles.

Mental health, health services in aboriginal communities, and improving cancer treatment are other government priorities, he said.

He also pledged to improve English-language services throughout the health-care system.

The government has invested $248 million more in the health system, Mr. Couillard said.

Of that, $25-million has gone to emergency rooms and $60-million has gone to reducing waiting lists for surgery, he said.

It’s not unrealistic for Quebec to have one of the best health-care systems in the world, he told Liberal delegates.

“We are capable of doing much better than we have done, I guarantee you we are going to do it,” he said.

Outside the site of the meeting, about 200 demonstrators rallied for the survival of the province’s $5-a-day day-care program.

Demonstrators want to maintain both the price and the universality of the program, they said.

Any change would cause hardship for young families and women trying to enter the workforce, Helene Potvin, president of the Association of Day Care Centres of Quebec, told the French all-news channel LCN.

“It’s very important…The impact is just enormous,” she said.

However, the Charest government does not intended to maintain the universal aspect of the program.

“The reduced price will not be there for everybody,” said junior family minister Carole Theberge at a news conference during the meeting.

Ms. Theberge will submit a proposal regarding the future of the program at a ministers’ meeting at the end of the month.

Ms. Theberge also pledged that the 3,000 new day-care places promised by the Liberals will be available at the end of September.

The places will be created in private day cares, Ms. Theberge said at the meeting.

About 168,000 Quebec children take part in the $1.3-billion day-care program.

The program cost $250-million when it was introduced by the Parti Quebecois in 1997 as a cornerstone social policy.

Premier Jean Charest’s government is reviewing the program amid soaring costs and waiting lists up to three years long.

The party meeting wraps up on Sunday. Delegates at the weekend convention are studying resolutions concerning a number of reforms proposed by the government.

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