While just under a million Quebec residents are currently waiting for a GP, Secretary of State Dubé predicts that half of them will have one in less than a year. “I want us to end up with at least 500,000 patients who will be removed from the primary care physician’s access window by March 31, 2023,” he said in an interview with the Task† “We are going to give access to a GP to the most vulnerable clients who don’t have one,” he continued, quantifying this clientele at 400,000 priority patients, who should therefore all have a GP. Here in March.
The agreement announced Sunday between the Federation of General Practitioners of Quebec (FMOQ) and the government of Quebec to improve access to primary care was welcomed by the FMOQ as a “ray of hope”. Health Minister Christian Dubé, for his part, welcomed a “structuring and essential” agreement in his government’s health plan.
The agreement includes a series of measures designed to facilitate access to primary care for the population. Each patient with a primary care physician will have access to it, or another physician in the group, within 36 to 72 hours, depending on their clinical needs. In addition, patients without a primary care physician will be able to access a health professional within a “reasonable” time frame thanks to the primary care access window (GAP), a system that will be gradually implemented throughout Quebec.
This agreement, which GPs will voluntarily sign, made FMOQ president Dr.r Marc-Andre Amyot. “It’s a partnership agreement, an agreement where the two parties work together, without any fines, threats or obligations,” he exulted in an interview with the Task†
The agreement promotes collaboration between the various industries working in the health sector, a central point of the FMOQ’s requirements. “We can no longer meet all the needs of the population if we have a shortage of 1,000 general practitioners,” underlines the Dr Amyot. The GAP will therefore “evaluate the patient’s needs and determine the best professional to meet them,” such as a nurse or pharmacist, he specifies. “We conducted a pilot project in Bas-Saint-Laurent and about 50% of patients were referred to other professionals. †
Another focal point of the announcement, in the eyes of the physician, is that the agreement between the FMOQ and the government will allow to “sit down and address the issues facing physicians”, particularly with regard to the technical platforms for research patients, mental health care and the difficulties of accessing secondary care, ie medical specialists. “The government is committed to working with us to find solutions to these problems,” underlines the Dr Amyot.
In order to speed up access to general practitioners, both they and the Family Medicine Groups (GMF) will have to “provide extra time slots for appointments”, confirmed Minister Dubé. A measure welcomed by the Dr Amyot: “Many FMGs had already started making more time slots available for patients without a GP. We bet those who have already offered it will be able to offer more as it will be better structured. †
All measures included in the agreement will remain voluntary for doctors, but the FMOQ president says he is “confident” that the majority will endorse them without any problem. “Those who say ‘I can’t take it anymore’, we won’t ask them anymore, but many will say ‘I’m ready to participate and even rethink my way of practicing’.”
An agreement to adopt
Over the next two weeks, the president of the FMOQ will travel through Quebec to meet with doctors and present them with the details of the agreement. “We are going to recommend them to vote for [l’entente] he specifies.
However, some tensions remain between the government and the FMOQ regarding Bill 11, certain clauses of which are causing discontent among doctors. “We do not rule out legal challenge to this agreement,” says the Dr Amyot.