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 companies here be given an advantage by selling poorer products at a higher price. What we are asking is that proximity 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.
The government has been hammering home the importance of local consumption for months, they said.
“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 were very disappointed that “boots don’t follow their lips.”
“The Prime Minister has been repeating, since the start of the pandemic, that we must encourage Quebec products. 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 of 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 revenue “in Japan, Europe and North America,” says 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 “is studying all possible avenues to promote Quebec companies in awarding public contracts in Quebec”.
The Treasury Board Secretariat did not respond to questions from Newspaper.
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 viewing health care provision “as a way to save money.”
“The pandemic has been difficult […]. In a context of economic recovery, this is the time to question our practices, “he blurted out.
And Quebeckers would benefit from better health care if the tenders weren’t just 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 less expensive, 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: 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 nearly $ 30 million in sales, 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 wrist band for the radial artery compression used in interventional cardiology: the Bengal radioband. It is manufactured at the Plastiques Moore plant in Saint-Damien-de-Buckland, in the MRC of 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 level of oxygen saturation in the blood.
All of the province’s hospitals use his product, says Bélanger, who estimates his annual turnover at close to $ 500,000.