Nearly 75,000 Quebecers refused by family doctors through online registry

More than 540,000 Quebecers have been connected to a family doctor through the province's registry to find a general practitioner (GAMF) — but thousands have been refused for one reason or another.

General practitioners cite 'unreachable' or 'incompatible' patients as grounds for denial

Doctors reserve the right to refuse patients, and according to data from the Ministry of Health and Social Services, doctors mainly refused files because a patient was "unreachable." (David Donnelly/CBC)

More than 540,000 Quebecers have been connected to a family doctor through the province's registry to find a general practitioner (GAMF)  — but thousands have been refused for one reason or another.

A total of 73,844 patients were denied access to a doctor since the database launched in April 2016.

While doctors reserve the right to not take on more patients, Quebecers who are initially refused are put back on the registry and keep their priority.

But one patient whose record was denied by a doctor thinks there is a lack of communication in the healthcare system.

"We register on a website, but after, we have no way to follow the file, apart from filing complaints," Philippe Baguette told Radio-Canada.

Baguette registered his family with GAMF when it first launched. After hearing nothing for over a year, he filed a complaint in July 2017.

He said he was told he had been matched with a family doctor that same month. But when Baguette tried to make an appointment with a clinic, he was informed there was no file in his name.

Philippe Baguette registered his family with GAMF when it first launched. After hearing nothing for over a year, he filed a complaint in July 2017. (Radio-Canada)

When he contacted the complaints commissioner again, he learned that the doctor had refused to take on their files.

"I was not informed," he said.

Some patients 'unreachable' or 'incompatible'

According to data from the Ministry of Health and Social Services, doctors in the province mainly declined to take on a file because a patient was "unreachable."

This reason accounts for 37 per cent of recorded refusals registered between April 10, 2016 and Dec. 31, 2017.

Still, doctors are under no obligation to continue trying to reach a patient before giving up.

The second most cited reason, representing 24.8 per cent of refusals, was that a doctor's practice was "incompatible" with the patient's condition.

For the head of the Council for the protection of patients, Paul Brunet, this is concerning.

He wants to know why a general practitioner would refuse a patient on those grounds.

"Since [the doctor] is a general practitioner, he should not have a problem with compatibility with the patient's illness," Brunet said.

Not a cause for concern, says Health Minister

Health Minister Gaétan Barrette said that while 73,844 refusals represent a "significant" number, it's important to compare this to the total number of patients who did get access to a doctor thanks to the registry.

He also said he doesn't think it necessary to alert patients when they have been refused.

Quebec Health Minister Gaétan Barrette unveiled the online registry in April 2016. (Jacques Boissinot/Canadian Press)

Patients who are still waiting for a doctor need to update their contact information to make sure they are reachable, according to Barrette.

All patients who registered for GAMF by December 2017 should have a family doctor by Easter, he said.

With files from CBC's Matt D'Amours and Radio-Canada