Tuesday, March 3, 2009

L'autre Scandale

Joseph Facal, an ex-PQ minister and columnist for Le Journal de Montreal wrote an article in Monday's paper which attacked the two superhospital projects, both French and English.

Mr. Facal is one of the original heavyweights who signed Lucien Bouchard's famous manifesto 'Pour un Quebec Lucide' (For a Clear-eyed Vision of Quebec.) The conservative document proposed sweeping changes to Quebec society that included increasing public fees and tuition and asking the population to work harder.

It's not surprising that he complains that the projects don't make economic sense and puts forward some reasonable arguments. What is surprising is his anti-English and anti-McGill tirade and his misuse of statistics concerning McGill's performance.

I wouldn't have made the article a subject of a post except for the brilliant rebuttal offered by 'Cedric' in the comments section of the article as published in Mr. Facal's blog.

I have done the best to translate both pieces but please excuse me, it is most definitely not perfect. You can read the original French article and the rebuttal here.

L'autre Scandale by Joseph Facal

The disaster that occurred at the Caisse de dépôt should not blind us to another huge mess: the planned construction of two mega-hospitals in downtown Montreal at a minimum cost of nearly 4 billion dollars.

The Anglophone project will receive half of the money, inspite of the fact that one out of two doctors trained at McGill leaves Quebec and that it trains 4 times fewer doctors practicing in Quebec as compared to the Francophone side. Obviously, a taboo issue among those PQ and Liberals who were involved in this decision.

On the French side, we don’t know where to go with this shipwreck, we’ve forgotten the oldest principle of management in the world that says when you are in a hole, stop digging. The decision to build on the present site of the Hopital St-Luc is a huge mistake: there is not enough space, and it is much more expensive to repair the old building that to build new. All those who follow this case closely know it very well. But we continue as if nothing has happened. Those who defend the project in public do so because they feel compelled to do so, but they say the opposite in private.

Fascinating, isn’t it? How an absurd a project can move forward while everyone knows that it makes no sense? Take the members of the government and the project management team. All people of superior intelligence and clarity. Between them, they all know that it's nuts, but the first to admit the truth, will lose face in the group. They are silent, and the train continues to move towards the abyss.

Every one of them knows that it's crazy, but remains silent so as not to give ammunition to the opponents and so, the madness continues.

Everyone knows that it's crazy, but hopes that someone else will blow the whistle eventually and stop the train, but because everyone is thinking the same thing, the madness continues.

Everyone knows that it's crazy, but as the project will take many years to complete, they tell themselves that those who come after them can cope and so the madness continues.

Everyone of them knows that it's crazy, but they tell themselves that the first to admit it publicly will be taken down by the others, even as they understand deep down that the first opinion is correct and so the madness continues.

The whole affair is mad, but people can be intoxicated by the technical challenges of the project and lose sight of the overall absurdity of the situation.

Remember the famous film ‘The Bridge on the River Kwai’ where the captured British General resolutely directs his own prisoners of war to construct a bridge which will serve the Japanese enemy.

In short, this dynamic of silence and cowardice is absurd, but can be rationally explained. Individual people may be intelligent and lucid, but collectively can deliver a monster that nobody can believe.

I say this shipwreck will haunt us even longer than the Caisse de dépôt.

Here is a Cédric's brilliant reply in the comments section;

Your analysis of this crazy project is interesting, but as to McGill, there Mr. Facal, you disappoint me. For several reasons I am familiar with the medical school at McGill, and allow me to make some quick points.
Across Canada (and in Quebec), medical education has two main parts: the schooling phase and then the residency phase, which our cousins from France also call the internat. Between these two phases there is a set of transactions as in hockey, but much more intense. The young doctors graduate after four years of study and become doctors, but without a specialty. They then apply to where they want to do their residency specialty training (family medicine is also specialty) and it can be anywhere across Canada, if they so desire. Then after two to five years of residency, they become medical practitioners.
Your statistics are true Mr. Facal, except that they relate to young doctors after graduation and prior to residency, at the time of the "transactions" and not when they are medical practitioners. So yes, players leave Quebec.

Most young French doctors do not feel comfortable going to practice medicine in English, they remain captives of Quebec, not necessarily for love of the nation, but for issues of intellectual and personal comfort (it’s difficult to practice an intellectual vocation when you don’t have the necessary language skills) so they take themselves out of the transaction lines. But at McGill, our young Quebecers learn English quickly on the job and theses ‘players’ are not afraid to leave for further training on an English ‘team’, sometimes as far away as Vancouver. But as in all transactions, there are players who arrive here and of these, nobody makes mention. We scream when doctors from McGill leave, but there few people like myself willing to say "Yes, but McGill brings people from elsewhere here."

The irony is that many people from other provinces who are trained in residencies at McGill University in Quebec and who would like to stay here to care for the people of Quebec are prevented to do so for stupid reasons, including quotas and oppressive paperwork by the College of Physicians. No facility is set up to help those doctors wishing to settle in Quebec to learn French at a level acceptable to the College.
The moral is not that McGill is a sieve, it is that Quebec does nothing to retain its doctors.

Residents have been made to work under Act 33 of the public service, and despite the fact that Quebec pays doctors the worst salaries in Canada... and despite of the fact that the College of Physicians impedes the installation of physicians of other provinces and despite the new requirement that English-speaking doctors be perfectly bilingual...and despite of the fact that there is a racist anti-Anglophone atmosphere hanging over Quebec, the net migratory balance is positive.

There are more physicians from elsewhere settling in Quebec, then there are who are leaving. (my emphasis)

So I find your post on the mega-hospitals passionate, but please, spare us this contagious disease that is ‘McGillitte’, which results in the use of one of the largest academic institutions in our beautiful Quebec as the goat for all our booboos.

I really enjoyed this piece and congratulate 'Cedric' on his excellent rebuttal. If anyone is a true 'lucide', it is he. By the way ,can anyone enlighten me as to what exactly 'McGillitte' is.

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1 comment:

  1. Facal is one of the worst bigot of the PQ. And after reading his post, I can say his views regarding Quebec hospitals are based on no knowledge whatsoever. The comments of readers are better informed.