Sante Quebec board member discusses agency's goals and concerns about privatization


This week, Quebecers learned more about the province’s new health authority, Santé Québec.

Fifteen people have been appointed to the board, and one of them is Seeta Ramdass, a Montreal resident with over twenty years of experience in public health and education.

Christiane Germain, co-founder and co-president of the Germain Hotels chain, was appointed CEO.

Quebec's new health authority is headed by Geneviève Biron, the former CEO of Biron Groupe Santé, which operates in the private health sector. The composition of the board has raised fears that it could signal a more business-oriented focus and the privatization of the province's health system.

In her first interview since being appointed to the board, Ramdass addressed those concerns, telling CTV News that she believes the new agency is an opportunity to bring private sector best practices into the public health system to improve patient outcomes.

“In the private sector, for example, you get feedback from customers or clients on products and services, and that feedback determines how you improve those products and services. Hopefully we will do the same with Santé Québec,” she said.

“We will consider and use patient experiences and feedback to ensure we make effective changes that improve services for patients and communities in their socio-cultural context and the realities of where they live.”

Ramdass also spoke to CTV News about her background and how she hopes to apply it in her new role.

The following text has been edited for clarity and length. Watch the video above to see the full interview.

CTV: Congratulations on this new role. Many people are just getting to know you, although you have been working behind the scenes in health care for decades. Tell us a little more about your current work and your background in the Montreal health network.

RAMDASS: I am currently the Associate Director for Equity, Diversity and Inclusion at McGill University's Faculty of Medicine in the Office of Social Responsibility and Community Engagement. It's a long title, but I'm so proud to say that I'm actually a co-founder of this office. It's based on the work I did for more than two decades in the health network in health communications, where I worked in media relations for major health care institutions.

I was able to engage with the media and spread the word about all the wonderful clinical successes. I was at MUHC early on, before there was a website, and tried to help build that website and engage with patients in the community to find out what they would want on a website as we entered this whole new world.

I was able to see firsthand how patients – particularly from marginalized communities, very vulnerable patients, minority patients – were struggling to access healthcare. And it was important for me to really connect with them. And I was convinced that our hospitals are there to serve patients. I'm a public servant who is there to serve patients. And so I built my relationships with patients and the community to provide a service that was socioculturally responsive to their diverse needs, because Quebec is a diaspora of many different groups and communities.

CTV: Patient advocacy has been an important part of your work. What do you hope to accomplish in your new role that you may not have been able to accomplish in your previous roles?

RAMDASS: We've gone through so many different health care reforms over the last few decades. I think the recent pandemic has really highlighted the weaknesses of our health care system. It's also exacerbated all of these different barriers to accessing health care because we've seen the most vulnerable populations suffer and become victims of COVID-19 first.

I think that this advocacy work that I've been doing for decades with wonderful groups like the Conseil Pour La Protection Des Malades and other patient community groups, it's an opportunity for me to work with what I think is a very good socio-culturally diverse representation of Quebec among the new members of the board of Santé Québec. I think it's a snapshot of what the Quebec diaspora looks like today. And they bring a lot of different skills, there's a lot of interdisciplinarity. We need to try something new, we need to try some innovations. We see that previous models didn't work.

CTV: I would like to talk a little more about the composition of the board because since the names of all the members were announced, there has obviously been a lot of reaction. In fact, there were reports yesterday suggesting that there is no English-speaking representation on the board, but can you tell us that that is not the case?

RAMDASS: Absolutely. I am a Quebecer. I have lived here almost all my life and I am part of the Quebec community. I feel comfortable as a Quebecer when I find my way in the Francophone community of Quebec, in the Anglophone [community]and in the socio-ethnic cultural communities of Quebec. As you can see, I can speak English quite well. I am actually a polyglot. So I speak several languages, including French.

I feel like I'm representative of what Quebecers look like today. Our Quebecers who are Generation Z are multilingual. They speak French and English, and some other third or fourth languages ​​at home. I feel like I'm part of a very diverse community and that I can identify with all these different voices, all these different experiences.

I have great colleagues from French-speaking and Anglophone communities, as well as from socio-ethnic cultural communities. We all have the same goal: to ensure that every single person in Quebec receives the best possible care.