The Québec Ombudsman's 2022-2023 Annual Report - News release 1 - Understaffing: inevitability or a challenge?
QUÉBEC CITY, Sept. 21, 2023 /CNW/ - Today, Québec Ombudsman Marc-André Dowd tabled his 2022-2023 Annual Report in the National Assembly.
Should labour shortages, a widespread phenomenon in all activity sectors, be an inevitability or a challenge for government departments, agencies and public networks? From the outset, Mr. Dowd raises the question since staff shortages are sometimes presented as a pretext for shortcomings in public services.
Granted, government administrations now, more often than before, must deal with lack of teams and with recruitment problems. And the result? The complaints and reports that the Québec Ombudsman handles show that many public organizations cannot manage to maintain quality service when staff are just not there to provide it: lengthy wait times, mistakes, lost documents, service interruptions, jammed phone lines.
"I'm calling on authorities, decision-makers and their organizations to step up to the plate when it comes to service quality and personalization. It's true that in some cases, it's quite a feat. Therein lies the challenge," said Mr. Dowd.
The year in review
Whether because of understaffing or for other reasons, the situations denounced in the Québec Ombudsman's 2022-2023 Annual Report highlight failings by government departments and agencies and health and social services network organizations. Here is an overview:
We will not soon forget the problems that plagued the new computer systems at the Société de l'assurance automobile du Québec (SAAQ) in the spring of 2023. Onerous implementation of SAAQclic created unprecedented customer service congestion.
The Ministère de la Famille made a mistake that led applicants who wanted to operate a subsidized childcare service to believe that their project was admissible and was being processed. In fact, the project had not made the cut. Repeated 68 times, this error, which the Department knew about, would not have been corrected had it not been for the Québec Ombudsman intervening.
In a special report, the Québec Ombudsman noted that the Curateur public was sometimes slow to react when private tutors financially abused people under private protective supervision.
In another special report, the Québec Ombudsman made 11 recommendations to the Ministère de l'Éducation to improve services for students with social maladjustments or learning disabilities in public elementary schools.
Depending on applicants' needs and expectations, getting admitted to a CHSLD can be an obstacle course. According to health and social services data, more than 4,000 people are waiting for a place to free up.
The exodus of staff has been especially acute in the youth protection sector, where workers laboured under an excessive workload. This affected the quality of child services.
Because of staff shortages, some detainees experienced episodes of cell confinement that went well beyond what was acceptable.
Again, due to inadequate staffing levels, one correctional facility closed its visiting lounge on 30 occasions from October to December 2022.
At the end of an investigation, the Québec Ombudsman usually sends the department or agency concerned its conclusions and recommendations for corrective action. This year, 98.5% of case-specific measures and 98.1% of collective measures were accepted by public services, correctional services and the health and social services network.
Taking action, remaining confident
In closing, the Québec Ombudsman emphasized that its investigations have also shown that public organizations are inventive in providing citizens with comprehensive, prompt, empathetic, strategic and innovative services.
"I'm confident in the government's ability to deal with the various challenges posed by staff shortages. Why do I say that? Because public services can depend on workers who, as a rule, care about a proper and humane approach to citizens, provided they are given the means to do so," stated the Québec Ombudsman.
The Québec Ombudsman acts impartially and independently in ensuring that people's rights are respected in their dealings with public services. Its services are free and user-friendly.
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