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Quebec’s former health minister joins private sector

MONTREAL – After packing it in as health minister of Quebec earlier this year, Philippe Couillard (pictured) has joined Persistence Capital Partners as a partner. The company is said to be Canada's first private equity fund that invests in healthcare as a business.

PCP made its first investment in March 2008, when it acquired the three businesses of Medisys Health Group – a provider of health services to over 4,000 corporations. It has offices in Montreal, Toronto, Calgary, Vancouver, Ottawa and Quebec City. It’s a leading provider of diagnostic imaging services in Ontario, and also provides medical information services to the Canadian life insurance industry.

“Dr. Couillard’s experience, leadership and his expertise in the sector make him an ideal candidate to help us fulfill PCP’s mandate across Canada. We’re pleased and honored that he has accepted the challenge to foster the development of healthcare businesses in partnership with the public systems across Canada,” said Stuart M. Elman, Managing Partner of PCP.

“I’m very pleased to have the opportunity to participate in the growth of Persistence Capital Partners – a fund which aims to improve the overall efficiency of the system. We share the same values and goals for healthcare in Canada – delivering high quality patient care while meeting the evolving needs of users of the healthcare system,” said Dr. Couillard.

Dr. Couillard graduated from Université de Montreal’s faculty of medicine in 1979, and received his Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons designation in neurosurgery in 1985. Dr. Couillard was the chief of the department of Neurosurgery at St. Luc Hospital from 1989-1992, and co-founded and ran the department of Neurosurgery in Dhahran in Saudi Arabia from 1992-1996.

On his return in Canada, he became a professor in the Faculty of Medicine at the University of Sherbrooke and was both the director and chief surgeon of the department of Surgery at the CHUS. Dr. Couillard was elected to the Quebec National Assembly in 2003, and was appointed Minister of Health and Social Services of Quebec - a post which he held from 2003 to 2008, the longest serving health minister in Quebec since 1958.

Couillard, 51, told the Montreal Gazette that he sees no contradiction in his shift to the private sector. “It’s perfectly in line with what I’ve been advocating for years - a strong public system, well-funded and well-organized, but with a mix of private thrown in to ‘complement’ the existing system,” he said.

After five years as health minister, Couillard said he concluded that the health system needs to become less of a monopoly.

During his tenure, Couillard had opened the door to the delivery of private healthcare with the adoption of Bill 33, which sought to shrink surgery wait times by allowing knee and hip surgeries in private clinics.

Sacré Coeur Hospital in north-end Montreal is now subcontracting such surgeries at Rockland MD, a private clinic.

“In Canada and Quebec, it’s become almost a religious issue. If you stray away from the orthodoxy of the system as it was conceived half a century ago, you seem to be some kind of heretic,” he said. “The system needs a little bit of competition, and people need to compare hospitals with one another.”