Barrette walks back MUHC merger comments

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Quebec’s health minister says he never “put forward” the idea of merging the McGill University Health Centre into a larger network of hospitals.

Though Minister Gaétan Barrette speculated on CJAD radio Tuesday about the possibility of combining the five MUHC hospitals into a bigger “conglomerate,” his office denies ever having proposed a merger.

“It was an idea, that came from the community, on which we have deliberated but only if there’s a consensus,” a statement from the minister’s office reads.

The statement comes just hours after claims, by the MUHC foundation, that “anxiety is spreading across” the network over talks of major structural change.

MUHC officials have said they’ve had to make tens of millions of dollars in budget cuts in the past few years, and the government is now financing the hospital network based on an 85-per-cent bed occupancy rate. As a result, the MUHC — which runs the Montreal General, Montreal Neurological, Montreal Children’s, Royal Victoria and Lachine hospitals — has been forced to cancel at least 1,000 surgeries and close beds.

Barrette said this week that he does not see underfunding as a problem, painting instead to “a problem in terms of leadership at the MUHC.”

More to come.

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