Premier François Legault says the province is setting in motion a plan to get family doctors in Quebec who “aren’t pulling their weight” to take on more patients.
Legault announced Wednesday his government has obtained a list from the Régie de l’assurance maladie du Québec (RAMQ) of doctors in the province who work part-time, and his government will fight their union to get them to put in more hours.
The premier said the majority of family doctors in Quebec take on around 1,000 patients, but there is a minority that takes on fewer than that. He said he wants all general practitioners to see at least 1,000 patients, and he is looking at the possibility of legislating the quota.
The premier said his government will penalize those who don’t comply, but didn’t give any further details on a deadline or what the penalty would be.
“I don’t want to penalize all of them. Just the ones who aren’t pulling their weight,” he told reporters. “My patience has reached its limit.”
The move to get family doctors to see more patients was one of Legault’s Coalition Avenir Québec (CAQ) campaign promises during the last provincial election in 2018. He said if elected, he would get every Quebecer a family physician.
At the time, the number of Quebec residents waiting to get a family doctor was 400,000. In the last three years, that number has doubled – it now sits at 800,000.
The premier said the health-care network will look at the issue doctor by doctor and consider exceptions, such as putting in hours at hospitals, being older, or having a child with special needs who requires more care.
When asked if he’s concerned if this move will result in young doctors leaving the province or choosing to not pursue family medicine, Legault compared the profession to teachers and firefighters.
“When someone decides to become an elementary school teacher, can that person say ‘I want to teach just two days a week’? Can a firefighter say he wants to extinguish fires only two days a week?”
“People are sick at night and on weekends. Those who chose that profession need to understand that people are sick seven days a week,” he said.
Legault said he was aware of the strong reaction from doctors on social media on Wednesday, adding that he wanted to reassure there is “no issue with how much the majority of them work.”
‘A threatening approach’: union, politicians denounce the CAQ’s move
The federation of general practitioners of Quebec (FMOQ) union president Dr. Louis Godin said the government should be focused on addressing the shortage of family doctors in the province.
Liberal Party of Quebec opposition leader Dominique Anglade said the fact that Legault is telling physicians he has a blacklist of names of those who aren’t working enough is worrying, calling it a threatening approach.
Parti Québécois (PQ) leader Joël Arseneau said the government’s move shows how much the CAQ improvises without fully knowing the legality of its actions.
“The interference by the premier in the health system is disturbing,” said Arseneau.
Québéc solidaire’s Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois equally denounced Legault’s “list of lazy villains that he will discipline.”
‘Time to find a solution’
As to how the government would proceed with this move, the premier said he would legislate to be able to transfer the names of the family doctors on the list to the heads of their respective CISSS and the CIUSSS, which would then handle getting them to work more or implement the penalties.
Legault said his government has tried to negotiate with the union for the past three years without success.
“Gaétan Barrette (one of Quebec’s previous health ministers) tried for four years. The PQ government, the Liberal government all tried to go up against the union without success,” he said, adding that it’s time his government finds a solution. “I want to fulfill this (campaign) promise like the others,” he said.
–With files from The Canadian Press