Quebec medical specialists sounding the alarm about crumbling healthcare system

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Quebec’s medical specialists concerned over state of healthcare services
Medical specialists in Quebec are once again sounding the alarm over the state of the province's healthcare system. They say patient care is suffering and believe the newly re-elected Legault government needs to take action. Global's Amanda Jelowicki explains – Oct 6, 2022

The Federation representing Quebec’s medical specialists (FMSQ) is sounding the alarm about Quebec’s beleaguered healthcare system.

The FMSQ, representing 10,000 medical specialists across the province, published an open letter on Thursday asking the Quebec government to focus on healthcare reform now the election campaign is finished.

Thirty-five presidents of affiliated medical organizations also signed the letter.

The Federation says  operations are often cancelled at the last minute because of a lack of planning or missing equipment.  They say patients can’t access specialists, and the medical archive system is archaic and needs updating, and too many resources are missing.

“Patients are waiting too long. They can’t find their way to see the doctors,” said Dr. Vincent Oliva, the President of the Federation of Medical Specialists of Quebec. “The specialists are ready to treat patients. The problem is the system is not very well organized.”

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Read more: Quebec’s FIQ launches ad campaign: ‘Health care is in agony’

Doctors say patients are showing up in emergency rooms, desperate to see a specialist. They say requisitions are put in a general pool and patients often wait weeks for a follow-up.

“It is very bad, it is very difficult,” said Dr. Gilbert Boucher, the president of the association representing Quebec’s emergency room doctors.  “We are seeing it on the ground. They are trying not to come to the emergency department, but often it’s the only way in. There is no one answering them on the phone. They will try two weeks, at the end they give up and they come and see us.”

The doctors also say Quebec has been slow to modernize its archaic medical records system, and that often the burden is on patients to track down their own medical records and deposit them in doctors’ offices. They say the whole system needs updating, and needs digitization to better optimize patient care.

“Patients still have the burden now to go around and collect all those things,” said Dr. Boucher. “Everything should be electronic. We are 2022. We are still dealing with faxes and all sorts of things like that which makes it highly inefficient for everyone.”

Read more: Quebec vows to overhaul its beleaguered health-care system by 2025

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During the election campaign, the CAQ made dozens of promises for change within the healthcare network.

The specialists want change implemented quickly. They say for starters, there is too much bureaucracy and Quebec still makes too many decisions that should be left in doctors’ hands.

“In our view there is not enough autonomy for making decisions locally in the hospitals,” said Dr. Oliva. “More decisions should be made on a local level.”

An advocate for patients rights, however, believes the government should focus on primary care first, saying hundreds of thousands of Quebecers still don’t have access to a family physician.

Paul Brunet is also wary of the timing of the medical specialists’ letter. He says they’ll soon enter contract negotiations.

“We are a little skeptical. We won’t believe they are not of good faith, but we need to keep in mind they are a union,” Brunet said.

Newly-elected Premier Francois Legault would not comment specifically on the letter at his caucus meeting on Thursday, but he reiterated that healthcare remains a top priority.


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