Quebec's Health Ministry is trying to reassure the public including critics following reports that patients will be charged to use the individual rooms at the new superhospitals.
The ministry says the free use of hospital rooms will always be offered. But they do confirm they're still creating a committee that'll look into the issue of charging for those rooms. Reports say some of the options include a sliding scale payment or a formula similar to that used in long-term care homes.
Right now, patients can opt to pay for private or semi-private rooms. But the new superhospitals will only have single-bed rooms to cut down the risk of infection.
The government rakes in about $60-million a year from charging for private and semi-private rooms, mostly paid for by patients' insurance.
Critics raise concerns about premiums going up.
Healthcare unions and groups representing patients' rights have also come out strongly against the proposal.
Eva Villalba, vice president of Coalition Priorité Cancer au Quebec, a cancer patients' support group, said she's not reassured by the health ministry's promises that they will still offer hospital rooms for free, since they're still looking into how they can charge for those same rooms, including based on income.
"The idea of having rooms on a sliding scale basis goes against the five principles of the Canada Health Care Act," Villalba said.
"What we're concerned about is we'll have a two-tier system."
Yves Bolduc, former health minister and now Liberal healthcare critic, said the PQ is eyeing this as an opportunity to dig into the pockets of Quebeckers.
"It's a new tax," Bolduc said at a news conference, adding that ironically, if this comes to pass, when you show your medical file in hospital, you'd also have to show your income tax return, even for an overnight hospital stay. Bolduc also said he's concerned the measure will be extended to other healthcare institutions.