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Photo: James Morgan

Québec Ombudsperson’s report criticizes government for lack of action

Québec Ombudsperson (Protecteur du citoyen) Marie Rinfret tabled her 2019-2020 Annual Report in the National Assembly today. In it, she delivers her findings about the quality and integrity of Québec’s public services. This year, the investigations by the Québec Ombudsman compelled her to press the authorities—government departments and agencies as well as the health and social services network—to get moving.

“But what about the conclusions, rigorously documented by interdepartmental committees or public inquiry commissions, that languish for months or even years without outcomes?” asks Marie Rinfret. “Some of them never lead to the corrective measures needed. In the meantime, people, sometimes among our most vulnerable, bear the brunt of these long delays or of projects left by the wayside.”

Her Annual Report contains numerous examples of situations in which people speak out, analyses are carried out, and improvements are targeted. Then time goes by and nothing gets done.

“After the analyses and findings,” the Ombudsperson insists, “the time comes when all has been said and everything is in place for action to occur.”

Actions constantly delayed

  • The complaint processing mechanism in Québec’s education system is cumbersome, complicated and lacks transparency. Following a special report by the Québec Ombudsman in 2017, the Ministère de l’Éducation et de l’Enseignement supérieur promised legislative solutions to the problems. So far, no bill has been passed.
  • Following recommendations by the Québec Ombudsman, almost everywhere in Québec responsibility for healthcare in correctional facilities has been transferred from the Ministère de la Sécurité publique to the Ministère de la Santé et des Services sociaux. Better quality of care has been observed in the facilities where transfer occurred. What, then, is the explanation for the fact that transfer has not happened yet in the Québec City and Montréal correctional facilities, which account for 40% of the detention population?
  • Preschool children with language disorders receive specialized services from the Ministère de la Santé et des Services sociaux until they start school, when the education system takes over. However, at this point, services are drastically reduced or stop altogether. This year, the Ministère de la Santé et des Services sociaux agreed to analyze the situation. Since then, there have not been any developments.
  • Access to a family doctor is a major problem that has yet to be resolved. People approach the Québec Ombudsman because they are worried that they will remain on a waiting list for more than one year.

The COVID-19 crisis: the problems were already known

The period covered by the Québec Ombudsman’s 2019-2020 Annual Report ended on March 31, 2020. On that date, Québec was already three weeks into a health crisis. COVID-19 ran rampant in residences for the elderly, especially residential and long-term care centres (CHSLDs). The pandemic confirmed well-known failings—understaffing, employee burnout, lack of qualified workers and dilapidated premises. These problems had been described in several reports by the Québec Ombudsman and by other health sector stakeholders. Unfortunately, the solutions for providing the elderly with a living environment and care in response to their needs were postponed.

The Québec Ombudsman in 2019-2020: a few figures

  • 22,411 requests handled;
  • 53,326 phone calls received;
  • 96.1% of calls answered in under 20 seconds;
  • 98.2% of its recommendations accepted.

Acting impartially and independently, the Québec Ombudsman ensures that the rights of people are upheld in their interactions with public services. Its services are free and user-friendly.

See all the highlights at rapportannuel.protecteurducitoyen.qc.ca.