Shortage of psychologists in the public network | The coming months will be difficult for the population

The authors address the Prime Minister of Quebec, François Legault

Posted at 11:00am

Karine Gauthier and Catherine Serra Poirier
Psychologists, President and Vice-President Liaison, Coalition of Psychologists of the Quebec Public Network, respectively, and seven other signatories

Prime Minister, for over three years, the Coalition of Quebec Public Network Psychologists (CPRPQ) has had many exchanges with your advisers and some of your ministers. The aim was to inform them about the growing shortage of psychologists in the public network and to work together to solve this problem in order to mitigate the impact on Quebec’s society and economy.

Unfortunately, the situation only got worse. We therefore believe that it has become urgent to inform you about this.

As you probably know:

  • Quebec faces a significant shortage of psychologists in the public network at the expense of the private sector, while the workforce for other roles in the psychosocial field (social workers and psycho-educators, for example) continues to grow.
  • The investment plan that we presented to your ministers, which proposes in particular the hiring of 450 psychologists with a 30% salary catch-up, would cost only $155.5 million and would yield a return on investment of $228 million a year – if we only look at the savings associated with GP visits, emergency room visits and hospitalizations;
  • Psychologists struggle with a major problem of representation. At the union level, they are classified in the category of technicians and professionals in the health and social services, even though they are the only holders of a doctorate. Many steps have been taken with the trade unions to adapt the remuneration of psychologists to their training and their responsibilities. Unfortunately, since the latter are associated with over 100 job titles and represent a small minority (less than 3% of members), their voices cannot be heard. It is precisely because of this structural problem that 97% of our members are determined to form a group of psychologists with the right to negotiate.

It was without even consulting us that Deputy Prime Minister Lionel Carmant recently announced his interdepartmental mental health plan. This plan provides a number of interesting facilities, but will not solve the shortage of psychologists in the network. One of the most important measures of the plan is the deployment of more specialized practice nurses. And yet most of them are not qualified to practice psychotherapy, which is often the most appropriate treatment for the treatment of mental disorders.

The minister also counts on the recruitment of PhD students by opening vacancies in the environments where they do internships. While this measure is a step in the right direction, it cannot solve the problem of attraction and retention.

The figures are very clear: 75% of graduates say they would like to work in the public network, but only 25% do. As for those who join the public network, 40.5% leave their job within the first five years of practice to work in the private sector.

The main reason for this withdrawal is the lack of recognition of the profession in the public network. In addition, a large number of current positions remain vacant, which clearly indicates that the problem is in attracting psychologists and not in the availability of positions.

Finally, we must ask ourselves: what would happen to this plan if there were no more psychologists to supervise the internships in the public network? Is Deputy Prime Minister Lionel Carmant ready to face the political, economic and social consequences? Let us doubt it!

We have tried to work with the members of the concerned cabinets to resolve the problem, even going so far as to publicly support a number of measures, however inadequate, suggested by Mr Carmant in the media.

However, it is our duty to inform you that the Deputy Minister and the political attachés who have worked on this dossier do not understand the magnitude of the problem they are facing. In fact, if something is not done soon, the coming months will be very difficult for the population, but also for the government, which could suffer from a range of consequences, most notably a possible boycott of internships starting next fall. Indeed, dozens of psychologists write to us to tell us that they are too overwhelmed to supervise interns or to inform us of their intention to leave the public network. We want to sound the alarm: if nothing is done, hundreds of psychologists in the public network may decide to leave without us being able to stop them.

That’s why we wanted to inform you about the crisis situation that looms on the horizon, in the abiding hope that we can work together to remedy it. Both the population of Quebec and the doctors are asking for better access to psychologists in the public network. It is therefore urgent to implement the required solutions so that everyone who needs them can access their services.

* Co-signers: Beatrice Filionpsychologist, vice president secretary of the Coalition of Psychologists of the Quebec Public Network; Youssef Allamipsychologist, administrator of the Quebec Public Network Coalition of Psychologists; Jenilee Sarah Napoleonpsychologist, administrator of the Quebec Public Network Coalition of Psychologists; Marc-Andre Pinardpsychologist, administrator of the Quebec Public Network Coalition of Psychologists; Connie Scuccimarricpsychologist, administrator of the Quebec Public Network Coalition of Psychologists; Stephanie Tremblayneuropsychologist, treasurer of the Quebec Public Network’s Coalition of Psychologists; Loredana MarchicaPsychologist, Communications Manager for the Coalition of Psychologists of the Quebec Public Network

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