September 30, 2010

2009-2010 Annual Report

Corps

Speech by Raymonde Saint-Germain
The Québec Ombudsperson

September 30, 2010

Before I answer your questions, I would like to comment briefly on the Québec Ombudsman’s Annual Report, tabled this morning in the National Assembly.

We intervened with 71% of government departments and public agencies, and with 57% of health and social services network institutions following 21,289 requests for services from citizens.

The Annual Report describes a number of situations that were settled in a highly professional way by the public services, in the interests of these citizens and of many others to whom the settlements will also benefit. More than 99% of our recommendations on individual and collective cases were applied.

However, the Report also presents situations in which administrative expediency took priority over citizens’ needs. I also target certain problems that require immediate and sustained attention. Of these, the waiting time for hearings before the Régie du logement.

In general civil cases, the average wait for an initial hearing before the Régie is 17.3 months. The Régie was supposed to reduce the number of civil cases on the waiting list to 7,400 by 2008-2009, but 20,110 cases had still not been heard as of March 31, 2010.

I also note that it is possible for citizens to submit successive requests for revocation of a decision by the Régie, a process that increases the number of hearings. This obviously encourages a form of procedural abuse. Once again, I recommend that the Minister responsible for the Régie should introduce legislation aimed at correcting this situation, which is prejudicial for tenants and landlords alike.

In addition, the Régie, in its Annual Report, presents only the statistics on average wait times for initial hearings.  However, we have observed that many cases require more than one hearing, and that the wait for a second hearing can also be very long.

I have noted a similar phenomenon, which I shall refer to as a “shift in waiting time”, in the health and social services sector.  For example, a person is given an initial appointment, following which his or her needs are assessed, but actual services are not provided until much later.  The entire process can take months, or even years.  Parents, among others, are also faced with this type of situation if they try to obtain care for a child with a physical or intellectual disability.

Also this year, I reiterate the importance of quality control in residences for seniors and other vulnerable people. A rigorous certification process, followed by regular inspections based on reliable indicators, is urgently needed. It is only by taking this approach that we will be able to provide seniors with the kind of living conditions we would all want for our own parents.

Quality control must also extend to service agreements in cases where contracts are signed with community and private resources. The expected level of quality should be explicit and, along with the methods used to control it, should also be a key factor in awarding the contract.

Lastly, the supply of home services must be adjusted to reflect needs, so that the resources available not only provide citizens with good quality, caring services, but also help to reduce overcrowding in hospital emergency rooms.

With regard to this issue, I have also found that the Home Support Policy is not being implemented as quickly as expected, or at the same pace in all the regions.  It is important to remember that most people, as they become older, prefer to remain in their homes for as long as possible. This is a choice we must respect, and to which we must respond by providing appropriate services.

These situations highlight the problems encountered by the Ministère de la Santé et des Services sociaux in following up on many of the recommendations made in my previous Annual Reports. I would like to emphasize that this comment does not apply to the large number of network institutions and authorities that reacted in a positive and constructive way to the recommendations we made during the year.

Thank you.