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Quebec thinks it will be able to fill all psychology positions in 2026

Photo: iStock There is currently a shortage of nearly 70 psychologists in the public network.

Encouraged by the results of a $25,000 scholarship offered to young professionals going into the public sector, François Legault's government expects to have filled all psychology positions in the health network in two years.

This is the timetable set by the Minister responsible for Social Services, Lionel Carmant, on Thursday during the study of his ministry's budgetary appropriations in the National Assembly. “The first year in which we will have filled our positions is 2026,” noted the CAQ elected official, who answered questions from PQ MP Joël Arseneau.

According to him, this is the effect of the scholarships for psychology internships launched last year by his government. “This year, 25 [psychologists] will join the network. [And] 40, next year,” he added.

At the latest news, the public network employed 2,271 psychologists, a shortfall of around 70 workers compared to actual needs. According to figures provided by Mr. Carmant's office, Thursday evening, the need will stand at 2,461 in 2026.

How can the minister hope to reduce this gap after the hemorrhage suffered by the public health system in recent years ? The scholarships, but also the new agreements concluded with the union which represents psychologists, the Staff Alliance professional and technical health and social services (APTS), argued Mr. Carmant.

“We hope to keep them now that we’ve increased their salaries by 30%, too,” he said. The network lost the equivalent of 9 full-time equivalent (FTE) psychologists last year, less than in previous years, rejoiced Mr. Carmant. “We are reversing the trend,” he argued.

Karine Gauthier, from the Coalition of Public Network Psychologists, was very surprised on Thursday by the minister's comments. “It does not reflect the echoes I have from the field,” she analyzed when contacted by Le Devoir.

It's good to fill positions, she says, but we still need to ensure that the recruits stay, and since the scholarships are temporary, there is a risk that the new ones will leave quickly. “In some settings, 65% of new psychologists have left,” she noted.

According to the report by former minister Hélène David on mental health submitted a year ago, the number of psychologists working mainly for the public decreased by 313 between 2011 and 2021, while needs are growing.

An overly optimistic target ?

Asked about the minister's timeline on Thursday, the three opposition groups in the National Assembly greeted him with skepticism. “I don’t see how the minister thinks he will achieve this goal,” said Liberal mental health critic Elisabeth Prass bluntly. “Universities can’t even expand the cohorts of doctoral psychology students [and] there is a 30% salary gap with those in private practice. »

Québec solidaire also does not believe that current conditions in the network will convince more people to make the jump. “The best way to ensure that psychologists come to work in the public network and that they stay there is to improve working conditions. We must make the public network attractive,” said solidarity MP Guillaume Cliche-Rivard in a written statement.

In an interview, Joël Arseneau said he was encouraged, but is still waiting to see the results mentioned by the minister. “Where there is a pitfall is that psychologists who have accepted the scholarship are required to work in the network for only two years. This is the contract that binds them to the government,” he remarked.

“So the big challenge ahead for the minister after two years is retention,” he added.

With Isabelle Porter

Teilor Stone

By Teilor Stone

Teilor Stone has been a reporter on the news desk since 2013. Before that she wrote about young adolescence and family dynamics for Styles and was the legal affairs correspondent for the Metro desk. Before joining Thesaxon , Teilor Stone worked as a staff writer at the Village Voice and a freelancer for Newsday, The Wall Street Journal, GQ and Mirabella. To get in touch, contact me through my teilor@nizhtimes.com 1-800-268-7116