Feminist groups have identified various barriers to health services for women in the province
On October 19, the Network of Regional Tables of Women’s Groups of Quebec organized an event in front of the office of the Premier of Quebec in Montreal to give visibility to their demands for improved health services for women.
The event is part of the Network’s awareness campaign on the obstacles to women’s right to health in Quebec. The campaign, which has been running for the past year, called on the Government of Quebec to work to make universal, quality public health services available to women across the province.
Audrey Gosselin Pellerin, feminist political organizer and member of the Network, explained that the group aims to defend women’s rights by promoting regional women’s groups at the national level. Gosselin Pellerin said the problems facing health services often primarily affect women.
“After decades of neoliberal attacks on the health system with a pandemic that continues to drag on, we feel that there are real problems with access to care,” said Gosselin Pellerin. “At the end of the day, it’s often the women who pay the price.”
Gosselin Pellerin indicated that the regional tables have identified various obstacles that women across Quebec face when trying to access health services. According to the Network, in addition to the privatization and pricing of services that affect many Quebecers, women also face difficulties related to the centralization of health services.
“Centralization is a problem found in many regions far from major centers,” said Gosselin Pellerin. “Many women have to travel for hours to get treatment and access specialist care, which has a big impact on their lives.
Rebecca Chankowski, an international student at Concordia, has access to an insurance plan from the Régie de l’assurance maladie du Québec (RAMQ) but explains that she still has difficulty accessing health care in Quebec and that she often has to wait until they get back to their home in Europe to seek treatment for health issues.
“My biggest problem was trying to get appointments and being told it would take six weeks, even for something very urgent,” Chankowski explained.
Chankowski explained that she considers herself very privileged to have access to RAMQ services, but even accessing them was a long and complicated process.
Gosselin Pellerin explained that in addition to long wait times, women often have to deal with an unequal distribution of services.
“What we have noticed is that when hospital administrations have to make choices, when they have to cut somewhere, it is often obstetric and gynecological care that is cut and that leads to longer waiting times for women,” said Gosselin Pellerin.
The Network has also identified institutional issues that can lead to women being abused or, in the worst case, directly abused.
“These attitudes, whether bias or prejudice, have a real impact on women, especially women at the crossroads of oppressions,” explained Gosselin Pellerin.
Mathilde Benignus, who has lived in Quebec for four years, explained that she found it difficult to find a gynecologist or any other specialist from elsewhere in Quebec. Benignus says most of the GPs she saw encountered misunderstandings when it came to treating her.
“With women or trans people, the doctors I met at walk-in clinics didn’t know what to do,” Benignus explained. “If you want to get vaccinated against HPV, for example, they immediately assume that you are a straight woman in a relationship with a cis man or, if not, they think that you do not have one. no need.”
According to her, conventional medicine for women is not adequate due to a lack of informed doctors and feminist approaches to health care. In order to receive the care she needs, Benignus relies on alternative methods of care at feminist health centers.
“These alternative methods are really there and thank goodness because they replace what most doctors don’t know about,” Benignus said. “Not only is it cheaper, but the people there are nice, knowledgeable, and treat you like a whole person.”
For the Network, the solutions are to reinvest in the public health system, to improve the working conditions of healthcare professionals and to ensure the quality of care without discrimination.
“We want health care to be completely free, public and universal and to extend coverage to migrants in precarious situations,” said Gosselin Pellerin. “We want women to have a say in the organization of care.”
Photo by: Nelly Dennene/Network of Regional Tables of Women’s Groups of Quebec