Entrepreneurs in the health sector denounce the Quebec government’s lack of consideration for local companies in its calls for tenders.
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“We are not asking that local companies be given an advantage by selling poorer products at a higher price. What we are asking is for proximity to be a criterion, ”argues Louis Laflamme, president of Opsens in Quebec, who specializes among other things in cardiology technology.
In a call for tenders for cardiology supplies that ends tomorrow, Quebec entrepreneurs in the field expected the proximity of their products to be taken into consideration, which is not the case.
Achat local ?
The government has been hammering home the importance of local consumption for months, they recalled.
“I think that, if there is a lesson to be learned from the current crisis, it is that we should be autonomous for the goods which are essential, then the medical equipment, it is an essential good” , declared Prime Minister François Legault at a press conference in early April.
Businessmen have been very disappointed that “ankle boots don’t follow their lips”.
“The Prime Minister has been repeating, since the start of the pandemic, that Quebec products must be encouraged. For once we have specialized medical products made in Quebec … but the government does not favor any local company in calls for tenders, ”says Guy Bélanger, founding president of ATS Medical and Benrikal Services, in Saint-Bruno-de-Montarville, on the South Shore of Montreal.
In the eyes of the government, “there is no advantage in producing in Sainte-Foy instead of Costa Rica”, summarizes Mr. Laflamme.
Last year, Opsens generated nearly $ 30 million in sales “in Japan, Europe and North America,” explains its president.
Of this amount, between $ 500,000 and $ 1 million were generated in Quebec alone, maintains Mr. Laflamme, who claims to offer his product at the same price as that of its competitors, that is “between $ 800 and $ 900”.
“We allow technology companies [comme Opsens] to set up in the innovation hub in Sainte-Foy. We give them subsidies, tax breaks, but we prefer not to buy their product, while these companies export throughout the world “, summarizes the solidarity member of Rosemont, in Montreal, Vincent Marissal, who points to the” inconsistency ”from Quebec.
The Ministry of the Economy says “study all possible avenues to promote Quebec companies in the awarding of public contracts in Quebec”.
The Treasury Board Secretariat did not respond to questions from the Journal.
The law of the lowest price
For Benoit Larose, vice-president of Medtech Canada, the national association that represents the medical technology industry, it is time for the government to stop seeing the provision of the health system “as a way to save money”.
“The pandemic has been difficult […]. In a context of economic recovery, it is time to question our practices, ”he says.
And Quebeckers would benefit from better health care if the tenders were not only focused on price, he said.
“The public contracts of the Ministry of Health have a big impact on the economy here,” he laments. […] Suppliers are in competition with each other. They want the contract. They will offer cheaper, less efficient or older generation products. ”
They are from our region
Founded in 2003, the Quebec-based company specializes in manufacturing fiber optic sensors. It manufactures and markets a second generation fiber-optic pressure guidewire used to diagnose and treat coronary heart disease: the OptoWire. It has been used in the diagnosis and treatment of over 100,000 patients in over 30 countries.
Opsens has recently been among the top 500 technology companies, according to the firm Deloitte. Last year, the company generated sales of nearly $ 30 million, according to its president and CEO, Louis Laflamme.
In 2008, chemical engineer Guy Bélanger launched the Benrikal Services company in Saint-Bruno-de-Montarville. He created a compression bracelet for the radial artery at the wrist used in interventional cardiology: the Bengal radioband. It is manufactured at the Plastiques Moore plant in Saint-Damien-de-Buckland, in the MRC de Bellechasse.
This bracelet is used to insert the catheters and then introduce a probe into the various heart chambers in order to measure the pressure or the oxygen saturation rate of the blood.
All the hospitals in the province use his product, specifies Mr. Bélanger, who estimates his annual turnover at nearly $ 500,000.