Quebec Family Doctors Will Have to Take Appointments, Declare Their Hours Under New System

The Quebec government has tabled a new bill that aims to improve front-line services by forcing doctors and general practitioners to declare their hours and to only take on new patients who have registered on the province’s waiting list for doctors.

If Bill 11 becomes law, doctors will also have to put their working schedule in a new appointment booking system in order to make themselves available for patients.

The goal is for those without a family doctor to eventually be able to get an appointment within 36 hours.

The first step, according to Health Minister Christian Dubé, is to gather more data about how appointment slots are being filled.

“If you want to manage something, you need the data, you need the information on what you’re managing,” he said during a news conference on Thursday.

“And unfortunately, on a local basis, I think the health system has been managed blindly for many years without the information that is necessary for good management.”

Dubé also said he was inspired after seeing how well Clic-Santé, the system used to book COVID-19 vaccinations across the province, worked for Quebecers.

Over 880,000 Quebecers are currently on the waiting list for a family doctor, but at a news conference Thursday, Dubé said he believed the true number to be almost double that, around 1.5 million.

“Because Quebecers are tired of signing up to a system that doesn’t solve the problem,” he said.

Dubé encouraged Quebecers without doctors to sign up, saying the new measures would apply only to those signed on to the Québec Family Doctor Finder (GAMF).

The government would also have the power to dictate what percentage of a doctor’s hours must be before 8 a.m., after 7 p.m., or on the weekends, in an effort to take pressure off the province’s emergency rooms.

Dubé said family doctors will be forced to make some appointments available in the system, but how many will depend on the region and how much demand there is in the area.

The system would also allow the government to gather data on how many appointments doctors are actually taking.

“One side is saying we need more doctors, and the other side is saying [doctors] aren’t working hard enough,” he said. “I’m just saying: let’s prove it, let’s have the data.”

The Health Ministry will also be allowed to use that information “for the exercise of the minister’s functions,” including sharing it with local public health agencies.

In late October, Premier François Legault said the government had drafted a list of names of family doctors across the province who “do not do a good job,” but that it wasn’t legally clear if he was allowed to share that information.

Legault’s CAQ government promised in 2018 that every Quebecer would have a family doctor by the end of the government’s first mandate in 2022.

Dubé said that those who use the platform will not be taken off the waiting list until they have been permanently assigned a family doctor.

This post is also available in: Tiếng Việt

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