04/16/2015 06:29 EDT | Updated 07/01/2015 08:59 EDT

Quebec health minister wants to stop cash payments for baths at facilities

QUEBEC - Quebec's health minister says he has told orderlies at health-care facilities to stop accepting cash payments from patients wanting more than one bath per week.

The Coalition for Quebec's Future, one of the opposition parties in the legislature, revealed Wednesday the heads of some health agencies had been turning a blind eye since 2011 to under-the-table payments from patients who wanted a second bath.

Health Minister Gaetan Barrette called the practice "totally unacceptable" and said Thursday he has sent orders to the province's health agencies to end the payments.

Coalition health critic Francois Paradis said orderlies had been accepting cash payments of between $20 and $40, per bath, in recent years.

"Why was nothing done?" he asked.

Barrette said the problem was much larger than he suspected in many regions.

He added, however, the employees cannot be sanctioned because residents in health-care facilities have the right to pay for outside services.

Barrette said there is a conflict of interest when people, whose job it is to take care of patients on a daily basis, start asking for money for supplemental care.

Despite the payments being legal, the orderlies might have problems with the province's Revenue Department for not declaring earned income.

Patients in health-care facilities are given "adequate" hygiene care and baths are not the only way to ensure a patient is clean, Barrette said.

"The issue is not the daily bath," he noted. "The issue is hygiene, daily hygiene. Have any (journalists) recently reported that the hygiene situation in the facilities is problematic?"