The Castonguay Report: An invitation to an open-minded responseViewpoint by Isabelle Hudon

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Added on 20 February 2008 in Viewpoints

The Castonguay Report:
An invitation to an open-minded response

By Isabelle Hudon
President and CEO
Board of Trade of Metropolitan Montreal

February 20, 2008

The urgency of acting quickly came across loud and clear in the report just issued by the Task Force on the Funding of the Health System. We all recognize that the status quo is no longer an option if we wish to preserve the quality of care Quebecers have become used to in recent decades.

The health system as we know it has greatly benefited Quebecers. Clearly, the report from the task force chaired by Claude Castonguay suggests some major reforms, but ones that are consistent with the current system. Such course corrections are common in organizations and businesses. They provide an opportunity to look at what's working elsewhere, adopt innovative practices and ensure our productivity and competitiveness. And while changes of any kind can be expected to raise certain fears and concerns, I am profoundly convinced that only by venturing out of our comfort zones can we hope for real progress.

For the Quebec health system, the sole—and completely legitimate—purpose of undertaking such a process is to maintain quality healthcare that is affordable and accessible to everyone. Since healthcare is such a vital part of the quality of life for which we are envied worldwide, it must be preserved. That is especially true in the current context, in which we face fierce competition to attract and retain talent.

The Castonguay report contains ideas inspired by best practices from around the world and new ways to fund a system whose costs keep growing. We have every reason to consider them. Refusing to draw inspiration from these proposals would be to shirk our duty to ensure an equitable system for those who—in the near future, we are told—may see access to quality care curtailed even further.

Rethinking the operating model of something as complex as a provincial healthcare system is a significant challenge. But the opportunity that comes with this report, as we prepare to institute university health centres that are among the most innovative and modern in the world, is unique.

In that light, two factors are critical.

First, we must adopt a common language understood by all. When defining complex concepts like those related to health, nuances are important and misunderstandings can be major obstacles to achieving tangible results.

Next, and even more important, we must be open-minded and pragmatic. That is a premise we will inevitably have to embrace if we are to succeed in improving our health system and preserving quality care. The report's release is an ideal opportunity for us as a society to take a step back and, calmly and without impugning each others' motives, think about the solutions best able to help us achieve our goals.

Indeed, even the dissenting view expressed by Michel Venne, one of the task force's vice-chairs, can be a source of inspiration in this respect. It is proof that we can disagree while continuing to work together towards a common goal. Despite his three objections, Michel Venne clearly says that he believes in this report. This attitude is to his credit and a wonderful invitation to Quebecers of all stripes to consider the report's recommendations with an open mind and seek points in common. With our health at stake, the issues are too important for us to fail.