Tabling of the Québec Ombudsman's 2008-2009 Annual Report - The Québec Ombudsman pleads for a better performance by the public service



    QUEBEC CITY, May 26 /CNW Telbec/ - This morning, the Québec ombudsperson
Raymonde Saint-Germain published her 2008-2009 Annual Report. She said she was
satisfied with some of the results achieved and progress made by the public
service, but was critical of numerous cases in which citizens' rights were not
upheld. She was especially concerned by malfunctions resulting from the
complexity of government systems and a fragmented vision of certain issues
that ought not to be addressed separately.
    At a time when the Government and elected representatives are considering
the future development of, and fees charged for, public services, Ms.
Saint-Germain pleaded in favour of a better performance, saying that "to
uphold the public interest, it is not enough simply to apply the same
parameters as the private sector; a combination of economic parameters and
social parameters also needs to be considered. They include the notions of
fairness on the part of a State monopoly, and adjustment of services to meet
the needs of the most vulnerable citizens."
    In her opinion, the public service performance framework should focus
more on the situation of the citizens it serves. The level of vulnerability of
certain individuals - whether temporary or permanent - needs to be considered
more fully when planning and providing services and granting budgets.
    The Québec ombudsperson also noted that managers responsible for making
decisions on unusual cases often did not have the necessary flexibility, and
she criticized the lack of proper transitional measures during administrative
reforms or when services were extended to new recipients. "Plans are made and
applied before the conditions for success are in place. There needs to be more
consistency between policy and resource allocation."
    The Québec Ombudsman's report presents three particularly striking
examples of poor performance on the part of the public service. The first is
the lack of protection for non-residents of Québec who work for Québec
companies. Although employers pay contri-butions to the CSST for these
employees when they are involved in workplace accidents outside Québec, the
Act respecting industrial accidents and occupational diseases does not allow
the CSST to compensate those employees. The Québec Ombudsman has brought this
problem to the attention of the appropriate Minister in the hope that a
legislative solution can be found that is fair to all workers (see page 46 of
the Annual Report).
    The second example concerns the lack of certification for private
residences housing drug-addicts and persons who are mentally ill or have an
intellectual disability. The Québec Ombudsman has reiterated the urgent need
for mandatory certification of private residences. At the present time, they
are not subject to either the complaint examination system or review by the
Québec Ombudsman. Residents therefore have no guarantee that they will receive
adequate treatment, in a safe and clean environment. Once again this year, the
Québec Ombudsman has received reports concerning abuse of vulnerable
individuals. Although the Ministère de la Santé et des Services sociaux (MSSS)
informed the Québec Ombudsman in December 2008 that it was drawing up a draft
framework bill on this issue, it was unable to say when the bill would be
tabled. Given the importance of ensuring the quality of the care and services
available to vulnerable individuals, the Québec Ombudsman reminds MNAs that
there is an urgent need for legislation on this subject (see pages 70 and 128
of the Annual Report).
    The third example concerns rehabilitation centres, their unacceptably
long waiting lists and service interruptions. The centres work with physically
disabled or mentally impaired people, and those with pervasive developmental
disorders. Despite the service access plan introduced by the MSSS in June
2008, many people are left to their own devices when their primary service
files are closed and their rehabilitation centres are unable to provide
service within a reasonable time. In some cases, it can take up to four years
to receive adaptation and rehabilitation services (see page 60 of the Annual
Report).

    The Québec Ombudsman: 40 years of serving Parliament and the general
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    public
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    Since the office was first opened in 1969, the Québec Ombudsman has dealt
with more than 646,000 applications. Every day, it finds solutions to a
variety of situations that are prejudicial to individuals, enterprises,
groups, companies and associations. The Ombudsman is appointed by MNAs from
all the National Assembly's political parties, and has the neutrality,
independence and impartiality required for the position. The Public Protector
Act was amended in 1987, allowing the Ombudsman to intervene on its own
initiative and to comment on draft legislative, regulatory and administrative
reforms before they were adopted. In April 2006, the Québec Ombudsman was
given an additional mission, that of protecting the rights of citizens under
the Act respecting health services and social services. It performs this task
as a second and final recourse in most cases, following appeals from
recommendations made by the health and social services network's complaints
and service quality commissioners.
    In 2008-2009, 99 % of the recommendations made by the Québec Ombudsman
following complaints or reports were accepted by the government departments,
agencies and bodies concerned. In addition to settling individual cases, the
Québec Ombudsman also identifies and obtains remedial measures for systemic
problems within the public service, and for issues affecting larger groups of
users. Through its actions, which differ from those of the courts, it is often
able to help avoid long and onerous judicial or administrative recourses.
    -%SU: SOC,CPN,SAN
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For further information:

For further information: Joanne Trudel, Communications Department, (418)
644-0510, joanne.trudel@protecteurducitoyen.qc.ca,
www.protecteurducitoyen.qc.ca; Source: The Québec Ombudsman


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