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End of deal with family doctors could jeopardize Quebecers’ access to health care

Click to play video: 'End of deal with family doctors could jeopardize access to health care for Quebecers'
End of deal with family doctors could jeopardize access to health care for Quebecers
WATCH: Quebec family doctors warn that nearly 1 million patients could soon be without access to primary. A deal that gave physicians a bonus for seeing patients without a family doctor is set to expire at the end of May. As Global's Franca Mignacca reports, without a new deal in place, many Quebecers might be left in limbo – Apr 18, 2024

The federation representing general practitioners in the province is warning patients could soon be without access to primary care services, if the Quebec government doesn’t reach a deal with it by the end of next month.

The Fédération des médecins omnipraticiens (FMOQ) reached an agreement with the province two years ago, allowing for the creation of a primary care access point program, known as the Guichet d’accès à la première ligne (GAP), and providing physicians in family medicine groups with a $120 bonus for treating so-called orphan patients.

That deal is set to expire on May 31st, and it’s unclear what will happen at that point should the province fail to reach a new deal with the FMOQ before then.

“First of all, the GAP will not disappear,” Health Minister Christian Dubé told reporters at the National Assembly Thursday. “There is no more money in the deal, but the deal is still there.”

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Dubé explained the province is ready and open to negotiate a new agreement with the FMOQ, but it first wants to determine whether the new system is working for patients.

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Global News has confirmed that of the nearly 913,000 patients registered with a family medicine group, only about half actually managed to get an appointment through the GAP since its creation.

In the meantime, Dubé claims, patients will not lose access to their family medicine groups — he is counting on physicians to continue seeing patients, even without a deal in place.

“The doctors are very professional,” he said.

But the FMOQ says the province risks losing doctors in the interim.

“What is sad is that we did all this work, all this change for two years in hoping to get to some place better, and now we’ll start back from scratch,” said FMOQ vice-president Dr. Guillaume Charbonneau. “The family doctors will do their best to provide care but we’re not enough and we had help from people who aren’t working in primary care who won’t be there anymore.”

Charbonneau said the deal encouraged doctors who were nearing retirement, as well as emergency-room physicians, to stay on as part of a family medicine group.

“If we stop abruptly, unilaterally, this system by a decision of the CAQ government, will we be able to bring back those people after? I don’t think so,” Charbonneau said.

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Dubé accused the federation of disinformation in the legislature on Thursday.

“They told their doctors yesterday, and they’ll say again, that we want to tear up the agreement. That’s false,” he said.

Still, opposition parties aren’t entirely convinced.

“This is the same minister that promised Quebecers 90 minutes at the emergency room. It’s the same minister that promised they would all have a family doctor,” said Liberal Health Critic André Fortin.

“How can we trust his word that on May 31st there will still be access to the GAP clinics? There are doctors right now who have reduced their [availabilities] because of this.”

There are currently more than 600,000 Quebecers still on a waiting list for a family doctor.

 

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