Health employment agencies | The State threatens to terminate contracts

Health employment agencies | The State threatens to terminate contracts
Health employment agencies | The State threatens to terminate contracts

(Quebec) The government’s desire to break its dependence on placement agencies in the health system is causing a stir. While the State threatens to take action against those who do not provide it with the promised labor, the agencies accuse the establishments of “explicitly deviating” from contracts to conclude agreements over the counter.


Published at 12:58 a.m.

Updated at 5:00 a.m.

The Center for Government Acquisitions (CAG) is now threatening to terminate the contracts of several agencies “due to the behavior” of some of them, it has been learned The Press.

In a letter sent on June 4, the CAG criticizes them for not responding to the requests made to them by hospitals, for not having resources available to meet their needs, or even for offering staff who do not meet the requirements. of their contract.

This call to order was made to agencies that offer services in Montérégie, the Laurentians and Chaudière-Appalaches. A similar charge was carried out on the North Shore and in Abitibi-Témiscamingue, where the constraints imposed by the Legault government on employment agencies are causing significant service reductions.

It was also in the wake of this widely publicized crisis that the Deputy Minister of Health, Daniel Paré, alerted the CAG to report “significant problems” experienced by establishments.

The targeted companies all won contracts as part of a huge government call for tenders aimed at filling tens of thousands of hours of work for crucial trades, including nurses, respiratory therapists and orderlies. beneficiaries.

This “mammoth” contract will end in October 2024 in Montérégie, the Laurentians and Chaudière-Appalaches. For the Côte-Nord and Abitibi-Témiscamingue, the deadline is October 2026.

Sanctions mentioned

From this date, hospitals in these regions will have to permanently stop doing business with employment agencies, to encourage the use of permanent staff, as required by a law adopted by the Legault government in 2023.

“This reminder aims to remind you of your obligations as a successful bidder, in order to avoid contractual breaches on your part,” writes the CAG in the document obtained by The Press. We then mention “various sanctions” ranging from removal from the mailing list to termination of the contract.

A service provider who does not meet its obligations could even become “ineligible to participate in CAG calls for tenders”, we warn.

According to the State, these sanctions “are consistent and proportional with the difficulties experienced by establishments due to the behavior of certain service providers who do not fulfill their contractual obligations”.

In conclusion, the CAG “requires” that agencies respond to a new round of service requests that will be submitted by establishments.

The integrated health and social services center (CISSS) of Montérégie-Ouest, which recently had to close around sixty beds due to lack of staff, confirmed to The Press that of the 142 agencies under contract with its hospitals, there are “51 service providers who do not follow up on [ses] requests, and 21 service providers who [lui] respond, but do not offer resources.”

The establishment also says “noting a gradual improvement in the number of availabilities offered by certain agencies”. The echo is the same on the North Shore, according to our information. The CISSSs of Chaudière-Appalaches and Laurentides also report issues with the use of agencies.

Over-the-counter contracts

A group of 18 employment agencies, mainly members of the Association of Private Companies of Nursing Personnel of Quebec (EPPSQ), responded to the CAG’s letters with a formal notice.

This group, which is contesting the validity of the most recent call for tenders in court, maintains that the situation is the result of the government’s political will to “end the use of agencies in too short a period of time”. According to them, establishments “explicitly deviate” from the call for tenders.

The “abusive nature” of certain clauses of the mammoth contract, these agencies allege, makes it “inapplicable and pushes health network establishments to conclude over-the-counter contracts” with competing agencies which have not qualified in the call for tenders.

According to Public Bodies Contracts Act, recourse by mutual agreement is an exceptional measure permitted in the event of service interruptions, for example. A demonstration must be made to the CAG before moving forward.

According to the group, the CAG’s criticisms are “totally unfounded” while the agencies are “doing everything possible” to respond to requests.

Their group formally requested the CAG to provide it with a list of all private contracts that would have been concluded by health establishments in all regions of Quebec to obtain temporary labor.

A “make-up operation”

According to the president of the EPPSQ, Patrice Lapointe, the call to order from the CAG is nothing other than a “make-up operation”.

“We informed the government, as soon as the call for tenders was launched, that the contract was unworkable,” he laments.

“The mechanics of the contract do not work. The government is trying to make agencies disappear through attrition,” adds Mr. Lapointe.

For Minister Christian Dubé’s office, “the fact that several agencies have not respected their commitment and sent the necessary personnel is further demonstration of the need to put an end to this model for patients.” The public network must have completely weaned itself from the use of agencies in 2026.

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