McGill medical students vote to strike against Bill 20

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On Tuesday, the Medical Students’ Society (MSS) voted at its General Assembly (GA) to strike on March 30 as a form of protest against Bill 20. If passed, the bill would restructure family care in Quebec.

“Every general practitioner […] must, to the extent provided for by government regulation, provide medical care to a minimum caseload of patients, and perform a minimum number of hours of medical activities,” the bill reads.

The strike motion passed with 89 votes for, 19 votes against, and eight abstentions. As a result of the vote, the MSS will participate in a demonstration against Bill 20 on March 30 led by the Fédération Médicale Étudiante du Québec (FMEQ), a union for medical students in Quebec.

“[The] MSS [will] organize a class strike (levée de cours) from mandatory teaching (and clinical) activities for all students (Med 1-4), in order for our students to participate in this strike on March 30,” the motion reads.

According to David Eidelman, McGill University Dean of Medicine, some family physicians are already cancelling their plans to teach because of Bill 20, which will negatively affect training provided at McGill and other medical schools in Quebec.

“The family physicians […] are so unhappy with the bill altogether, they’ve already starting to propose to withdraw from teaching,” Eidelman said. “They are worried that by next year, when this bill passes, there’ll suddenly be an increase in the number of patients they’ll have to see in clinic, and they don’t want to be caught in a cut in pay just because they’ve agreed to do some teaching.”

Nebras Warsi, MSS president, expressed concerns that prospective medical graduates might be less inclined to join family care.

“By getting in the way of allowing a family physician to teach medical students and to conduct independent research […] I think you’re really taking away a lot from what makes that specialty so attractive,” Warsi said. “Especially [at] McGill, we’re particularly research-focused [… so] taking that away is really detrimental in our eyes.”

Physicians who are currently practicing find that Bill 20 falls short in addressing individual complexities, according to Joshua Chin, the Students’ Society of McGill University (SSMU) MSS representative.

“What if the physician happens to be pregnant or has young children?” he said. “[They’ll] have to keep up with this patient quota [….] There’re still a lot of unknowns. The bill needs to be properly studied.”

Warsi explained that he felt that consultation of the medical schools in Quebec came in too late. 

“One of the first times there was really proper consultation was two weeks ago, [when] the deans [of all four medical schools in Quebec] actually had a chance to speak at the National Assembly,” Warsi said. “This discussion should have been taking place a year, or two years, or three years before the bill was even put into motion.”

Chin added that the Quebec government is rushing the legislation process.

“The message we’ve been getting from the government is that it will be rushed through,” he said. “The minister wants this bill to be implemented by early this summer.”

Members of the MSS will head to Quebec City on March 30 along with the representation from other three medical schools in Quebec: Université Laval, Université de Montréal, and Université de Sherbrooke. A joint press conference will be held by the four delegations that day. 

Medicine Senator David Benrimoh expressed that he was happy with the GA strike vote.

“I’m very proud that [the MSS] decided to take this stand,” he said. “I’m very proud that we decided to stand up against something that we believe is socially unjust and contributes to negative changes that will hurt the patients we care for.”