04/08/2013 06:26 EDT | Updated 06/08/2013 05:12 EDT

Montreal health care cuts spark fear over patient impact

Health care officials are concerned that millions of dollars in cuts at Montreal's authority for health and social services could have an impact on patient care.

Last year, the agency’s budget was reduced by $80 million and now the provincial government is cutting the budget by $100 million for the 2013-2014 year.

Lise Chabot, spokeswoman for Montreal health authority, says the cuts are "colossal."

About half of the proposed $100 million will be trimmed from administration and human resources costs.

The other half will come from the city's health care establishments.

Chabot said the agency will find a way to implement the cuts without affecting patient care, although it will be difficult.

Dr. Paul Saba, who is the president of the Coalition of Physicians for Social Justice, calls the cuts “totally unacceptable.”

Saba said Quebec’s hospitals are already under funded, and the major cut is likely to have an effect on patient services.

“The government is making up stories when they say that they can keep cutting back and not affect patient care,” he said.

Saba said the government should consider other cost-saving measures instead.

He suggested the government could save billions by applying reference pricing on public drug plans.

“Instead of using the newest and latest brand drugs, patients could be given an alternative which is just as good and the government would save close to $3 billion,” he said.

Patients rights advocate Paul Brunet said he will be watching the health care system to make sure patient care does not suffer.

He said he hopes the cuts will focus on management and administration budgets.

“I know that all of that is useful and important, but never as important as the delivery of the mission and of the service,” Brunet said.