The of Michel David: hostage-taking in the health system

The Quebec Minister of Health, Christian Dubé, brings to mind the hero of these action films who agrees to constitute himself a prisoner to ensure the release of hostages liable to be executed if the demands of the band of terrorists who are holding them do not are not accepted.

We cannot blame him for having backed down in the face of the risk that service disruptions in the health network endanger the health or even the lives of users. It is more difficult to understand that such an experienced manager did not take the measure of this risk when he reiterated his ultimatum to workers who were not adequately vaccinated. Moreover, even if they had complied, they could not have been in time.

In Ontario, Doug Ford clearly learned lessons from his disappointment and asked for a detailed portrait of the repercussions of a possible suspension in establishments in his province before he reached this extreme. A precaution which nevertheless seems elementary.

To make your government lose face is a serious mistake. Fortunately, we are not in China, where the minister would have been liquidated and the health workers would have had the choice between vaccination and the re-education camp. No one is asking for the resignation of Mr. Dubé, whose record has been exemplary since taking office, but it is difficult to see how he could afford another capitulation if the situation has not changed by November 15.

If the hard core of antivaccines seems irreducible, we can hope that the measures announced to repatriate those who have deserted the network or retired will begin to bear fruit. However, it would be illusory to believe that this will be sufficient to prevent all service disruptions. What level of risk will the government be prepared to accept in order to regain face?

Mandatory vaccination of health care workers dramatically raises the question of who has the power to determine where the public interest lies. According to the Legault government, the presence of unvaccinated employees constitutes a threat that justifies the imposition of sanctions. Hold-outs argued that by further weakening an already fragile network, their absence would put it at even greater risk. They won.

For the first time since the start of the pandemic, it was not the virus, but a handful of opponents who dictated its conduct on the government and imposed its vision of the public interest. In reality, it was not only the Minister of Health who was taken hostage, but the entire population.

The recalcitrant found allies in this showdown. The various professional orders have lined up behind the government by threatening to suspend the license to practice of those who refuse vaccination. In contrast, the unions were preparing to file a grievance for each unvaccinated employee who would be suspended, which could only strengthen their resolve.

It is true that, unlike professional orders, unions do not have the mandate to protect the public, while they have an obligation to defend their members. This is not necessarily incompatible, but they should not be surprised that their motivations are questioned when they next invoke the public interest.

A few years ago, it was “in the best interests of Quebeckers” that the unions claimed to be leading the fight against the austerity policies of the Couillard government. Budget cuts in the education sector would “mortgage the future of our children”, they said, calling on the population to form “chains of solidarity” around schools.

If the unions considered insufficient the wage offers of a government which they said blinded by its ideology, it was because they would not make it possible to attract or even simply to retain the personnel essential to academic success.

The same threat hung over the health network. “The safety and quality of the care provided to patients are at stake,” Régine Laurent had launched before the Federal Council of the FIQ meeting in Lévis in March 2015. At the same time, we witnessed “an operation to denigrate and devalue women workers. and workers in the health sector ”. The more it changes, the more it is the same, as the other said.

More generally, the president of the FTQ, Daniel Boyer, estimated that Quebec was “led by sorcerer’s apprentices who like to put families on the street by shooting everything that moves”. Thank goodness the unions were watching and were not going to tolerate such a rampage. On the other hand, a hostage-taking …

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