Bill 20 committee told patient quotas not the solution

QUEBEC CITY — Public hearings into Bill 20, an act to promote access to family medicine in Quebec, began Tuesday with groups slamming the health minister’s “wishful thinking” and “simplistic solutions.”

“We need to act on different parts of the solution, because the problem doesn’t have one origin so the solution can’t be unique; we need to see all aspects,”said Québec Solidaire MNA Amir Khadir.

“Remuneration is one aspect.”

About one million Quebecers still don’t have access to a family doctor.

Health Minister Gaétan Barrette said he wants to legislate to force doctors in this province to work “full-time,” noting 60 per cent of Quebec doctors work less than 25 weeks a year.

Barrette’s proposed legislation would require doctors to take on a minimum of 1,000 patients or risk losing 30 per cent of their pay.

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The president of Quebec’s association of young doctors, Pierre-François Gladu, openly defied the minister on the first day of hearings and challenged him to come up with examples of patient quotas elsewhere.

“Great Britain uses patient quotas, you’re a well-informed man, Dr. Gladu, you know this,” Barrette said.

In a type of duel rarely seen in committee hearings, Gladu said Barrette’s numbers were all wrong and doctors were not lazy.

But a group representing Quebec patients applauded Bill 20.

“We are supporting the fact that we need to have access to a doctor, this is what users need in our system right now,” said Pierre Blain, from the Regroupement provincial des comités d’usagers.

“We crunched some numbers and we think 1,700 patients could be seen by one doctor.”

The other part of Bill 20 would limit access to in vitro fertilization programs. Currently, assisted procreation is accessible to every Quebec woman with medicare.

Last June, Quebec’s Health Commissioner, Robert Salois, called the program “an open bar” and said it was plagued by cost overruns. Bill 20 would ban access to women under 18 and over 42.

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Only artificial insemination would continue to be covered; all other procedures would have to be paid upfront by patients, and tax credits would be offered.

“We need to see the details,” said the Parti Québécois’ Diane Lamarre.

“Our fear is that patients who are more ill will have less easily access to the healthcare system. So we need to have this clearly demonstrated.”

The Quebec Bar Association and the Federation of General Practitioners, slated to present first, were no-shows on Tuesday.

The two groups argued they didn’t have enough time to prepare for the hearings.

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