A mammoth tender to recruit nurses, nursing staff and other health workers from private agencies has been suspended by the Public Procurement Authority (AMP) for more than a month.
According to Radio-Canada, the AMP is continuing to analyze complaints filed by suppliers last fall.
As the president of the Association of Private Healthcare Personnel Companies of Quebec, Patrice Lapointe, explained, several members of the Association, for serious reasons, submitted complaints first to the Government Acquisitions Center (CAG), which rejected them, and then to the AMP, which made the appeal suspended tenders to examine the situation and make a decision.
“We have been working diligently with the AMP and are confident that they are carrying out a serious analysis of the situation,” he added.
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Patrice Lapointe, president of the Association of Private Health Personnel Companies of Quebec
The Government Acquisition Center launched a tender at the end of October last year with the aim of completing more than 16 million man-hours using private agency workers.
An unprecedented volume to be used to meet the estimated independent workforce needs of healthcare facilities across the province through October 2026.
Nurses, respiratory therapists, carers, occupational therapists: the list includes many professions that are essential for the functioning of the healthcare network.
According to our calculations, the total value of the tender is around one billion dollars, almost a third of which is for the regions of Montreal, Laval, Montérégie, Capitale-Nationale and Chaudière-Appalaches.
Unfortunately, in our opinion, what the CAG is proposing with this tender makes the provision of the service impractical – the necessary flexibility is not present.
Particularly highlighted was the introduction of capped prices last fall, as well as $5,000 fines for non-compliance.
Since October, an agency cannot charge more than $71.87 an hour for the services of a nurse, $80 for a respiratory therapist or $41.96 for a companion.
“With the entry into force of this regulation, we respect our commitment to put an end to private agencies in the health network,” argued Minister Christian Dubé at the time.
This is not the first time that the AMP has had to intervene in cases related to tenders for self-employed workers.
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The Minister of Health Christian Dubé
Photo: The Canadian Press / Jacques Boissinot
No interruption of services
Despite the delays associated with the AMP intervention, private placement agencies continue to respond to the workforce needs of hospitals and CHSLDs.
As Patrice Lapointe emphasizes, there will be no disruption to services, even if the suspended tenders should, in principle, come into force at the beginning of 2024.
At CAG, we assure that two more contracts awarded in 2023 are still being executed to meet the needs of businesses.
First date in October 2024
This review of the AMP comes at a time when healthcare facilities need to combine their efforts to meet Quebec's countdown to end the use of temporary staff.
In April 2023, Quebec passed a bill that would ban the use of the services of recruitment agencies and independent workers in the health and social services sector.
Hospitals and CHSLDs in the Montreal, Laval, Montérégie, Capitale-Nationale and Chaudière-Appalaches regions must generally cease use in October 2024.
The other regions of the province must gradually follow the same instructions by autumn 2026.
Radio-Canada announced last fall that hospitals and CHSLDs in the Montreal and Quebec regions had still failed to reduce their labor costs a year before the health minister's deadline.
The Public Procurement Authority (AMP) is a neutral and independent government agency whose primary responsibility is to oversee public procurement and the application of public procurement laws and regulations in Quebec.
The AMP launched in 2019 following the work of the Charbonneau Commission on the Construction Industry.
The Commission's very first recommendation aimed to provide Quebec with a public procurement authority to ensure the integrity of public contracts.