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Montreal hospitals score low on accessibility, survey says

Montreal hospitals were ranked as poor performers in a survey of patient accessibility to hospitals across the province of Quebec. L’Actualité magazine conducted the study of wait times at hospitals across the province, and found that only three Montreal hospitals rank among the top 25, with several clustered near the bottom of the ranking.

Of the 18 Montreal hospitals, seven received grades below 60 percent, including St. Luc, the Royal Victoria, Sacré Coeur, Santa Cabrini, Notre Dame, Hôtel Dieu and Maisonneuve-Rosemont.

The magazine used three factors to evaluate accessibility of healthcare at the facilities: average wait time for emergency care, the percentage of patients waiting more than six months for elective surgery, and whether laboratory services are available without an appointment. The total mark was calculated by combining these scores.

Out of the 86 hospitals evaluated, the three earning the highest marks are in smaller communities: Baie St. Paul, Magog and Thetford Mines.

The magazine spread includes a profile of the Centre de santé et de services sociaux de la région de Thetford, which tells how people from other communities, including Montreal, are making the trip to Thetford Mines for prompt healthcare.

The only facility on the island of Montreal that made it into the top five is the Lachine Hospital.

The methodology for the study was developed by Yves Bolduc, director of professional services at the Hôtel Dieu hospital in Alma, in conjunction with the magazine. Bolduc is running as a candidate for the Liberals in the Lac St. Jean riding.

Premier Jean Charest (pictured above) welcomed the report card, saying it is a good idea to make the information public. “We have to do it if we want to be able to make the right decisions afterward.”

Nor did Charest see the report card as a criticism of his government’s performance.

“I am very proud of what we have achieved in health in the last four years. We have taken courageous steps so that the healthcare system is really centred on the best service to patients. We have had four consecutive years of improvement in the health and social services system. We haven’t seen that for a long, long time. We succeeded on several levels to achieve our objectives and we will continue to make it the first priority.”

Charest said Bolduc’s work on the report was completed before he was approached to become a candidate and contributed to his decision to run for the Liberals. “Dr. Bolduc commented on the report card and he said it was because the Liberal Party took the steps that he thinks are the right actions, he will be part of this team.”

Health Minister Philippe Couillard told the Montreal Gazette newspaper that the report will help the government pinpoint areas where improvements must be made and could help institutions that are less efficient learn from those that posted better performances.

Couillard, a physician by training, said one of the things that struck him was how similar-sized institutions with similar budgets performed differently.

“What was interesting is that I noticed that within the same region, with the same budgets, the same administrative rules, there were fairly different levels of performance. Which shows that organization and the way you do things are at least as important as the financial resources.”

Couillard said he was also struck by how Quebec City’s university hospital centre posted a better performance than Montreal’s, and how the performance levels varied among Montreal hospitals.

“Ste. Justine was at the top of the list. The McGill hospital was fairly good – it could be better but it was fairly good. The CHUM has difficulties. The smaller hospitals are doing well. The Jewish is doing fairly well, St. Mary’s is doing very well, it had a very good score.”

Couillard said in many cases, the report confirmed what the government already suspected. In many cases, the government was already concerned and has started to intervene in some of the hospitals that received the lowest scores, such as the Gatineau-Hull hospital.

Couillard said the report done by l’Actualité was far more thorough than the one done by the previous PQ government and he hopes the magazine repeats the exercise and adds categories.

PQ candidate Louise Harel issued a statement critical of the Charest government’s management of emergency room overcrowding, saying the government has not lived up to its commitments to cut waiting times.