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Quebec premier considers hiring more nurse practitioners

WATCH: Quebec Premier Philippe Couillard says the province should hire more nurse practitioners to see patients who don't have a family doctor. As Global's Raquel Fletcher reports, the proposal could signal a shift in health policy for the Liberals just four months ahead of the election.

Premier Philippe Couillard said Friday that Quebec should consider hiring more nurse practitioners who can see patients who don’t have a family doctor.

He made these comments after reports that 300,000 Quebecers are still waiting for a family doctor and after the health minister said the family doctor shortage could be fixed if GPs just worked more.

READ MORE: Quebec Health Minister prescribes solution for family doctor problem

Does this openness indicate a shift in health policy for the Liberals four months away from an election?

Hiring more nurse practitioners and allowing them to see their own patients has been a part of the Parti Quebecois (PQ) health platform since at least last fall.

“Physicians are not able to fulfil the patient needs,” said PQ health critic, Diane Lamarre on Thursday, adding that even so, doctors — and the Liberal government, are bucking the idea.

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READ MORE: Quebec health minister called ‘arrogant,’ blamed by opposition for nurses’ exhaustion

Health Minister Gaetan Barrette has long maintained that Quebec has enough doctors; on Thursday, he repeated that they just need to work more. They promised in their contract to take on 85 per cent of Quebecers, and he said, they need to keep up their end of the bargain.

However, on Friday, the premier admitted there might be another solution.

“Maybe we need more nurse practitioners,” Couillard said. “It’s not only the PQ; everyone agrees we need more collaboration between the professions.”

READ MORE: Should Quebec end medical school quotas and hire more doctors?

Lamarre said the premier now needs to put government money where his mouth is.

“This is a government of physicians and they are unable to see other contributions … and they put all the money to physicians,” she said.

She added that there are 200,000 health professionals in Quebec that she said could help alleviate a clogged system, but too many of them she says work under doctor supervision. She said that wastes doctors’ time and doesn’t help patients.