Public health under the scrutiny of the Health Commissioner

The new health commissioner, Johanne Castonguay, will use her investigation into the pandemic to assess the performance of public health during the first wave of COVID-19.

“This is a big chunk of our health care system, a chunk that has received little attention and one that should be looked at,” she said in an interview with The duty, the first since his appointment in December 2019.

Will she have access to the documents of the crisis unit in the context of the pandemic? The ability to assess Dr. Arruda’s work? “Yes”, answers the main interested party.

In August, the government gave him the mandate to assess the performance of the health care system in terms of services to seniors. The investigation covers the first wave of the COVID-19 crisis. She has until September 1, 2021 to file her report.

In addition to the care of the elderly themselves and public health, Ms. Castonguay intends to dig into the human resources file. “It’s going to be inevitable to understand what’s going on with human resources. It screams everywhere. “

Unlike the investigation by the Ombudsperson, which will only look at the public network, the commissioner will also study private seniors’ residences (RPA). Its approach is also more focused on “solutions”, she insists.

“The goal of all health systems is to get the best results with the resources you have. To develop new ways of doing things. “

While the opposition in Parliament calls for a public inquiry, the Legault government says that the new commissioner will answer all their questions. “She has all the powers to be able to analyze what happened in the first wave”, again pleaded the Minister of Health Christian Dubé Tuesday during the question period. “What we wanted to do was have practical answers. We didn’t want to have a commission that would last for several years. “

To those who doubt it, Ms. Castonguay emphasizes that her mandate is “very very” broad. She is also considering tabling portions of the report before the fall in pamphlet format.

Recall that Johanne Castonguay is the first to hold this position since the abolition of the Commissioner’s office by Gaétan Barrette in 2017. Landed in empty offices in winter 2020, she also had to build an office from A to Z in full COVID-19 crisis, she says.

In March, his office had three employees; in May, they were seven and now they are 12 and still recruiting. When asked if the closure of the office has created holes in the collection of data on the health system, she retorts that the holes are rather attributable to the Barrette reform itself. “Before, we had a data system per facility, but now the data is per Integrated Health and Social Services Center so we have lost consistency,” she says.

The Commissioner also made the decision to produce data and indicators that will be easily comparable to the rest of Canada, which was not the case before. This will make it easier to make comparisons, she said. We want to simplify, make information more accessible and transparent, ”she also emphasizes.

Ms. Castonguay is the third to hold this position after Robert Salois and Anne Robitaille who remains with the organization as Executive Director. An economist specializing in health, she was an associate professor at the Pôle santé de HEC Montréal and director of research at the Institute for Research in Public Policy (IRPP), among others.

As many noted upon her appointment, she is also the daughter of none other than the father of Quebec Medicare, Claude Castonguay.

“When I was in my teenage crisis and needed to distinguish myself from him, I had no idea I was destined for health analysis. I became a macroeconomist first, ”she says on this subject, pointing out that she and her father have already worked together on mandates from the Center interuniversitaire de recherche en analyze des organizations (CIRANO). “I see it as a privilege. “

In addition to her special mandate on seniors and COVID-19, the health commissioner will report annually on the performance of the health system as a whole.

In data | Our interactive content on COVID-19

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