Clinics boost new patient registration by opening Saturday

In an effort to boost people’s ability to get a family doctor, 16 clinics in the Montreal and Montérégie west regions opened their doors Saturday so future patients could register for one.

46 doctors went to work on their weekend to give people a chance to register outside regular hours

Dr. Gaetan Drolet says he aims to have 1,250 patients. (Matt D'Amours/CBC)

In an effort to boost people's ability to get a family doctor, 16 clinics in the Montreal and Montérégie West regions opened their doors on Saturday.

General practitioners had already worked a full week, but 46 of them decided to go to their clinics anyway to register new patients.

Dr. Serge Lalonde, president of the association of family practitioners of the southwest, said in order for people to get a family doctor they need to go to a clinic and fill out paperwork in person.

He said the problem is that if a person isn't sick, they won't take a day off work just to stop by a clinic for administrative purposes.

Getting to 85% 

The province is pushing for 85 per cent of Quebecers to have a family doctor by the end of the year and Lalonde said that doctors are working hard towards that goal. 

"We think it's time to find a way to make that happen," he told CBC.

The most up-to-date figures show 75.4 per cent of Quebecers had a family doctor as of March 31.

Dr. Gaetan Drolet of the Clinique Médicale Des Trois-Lacs in Vaudreuil-Dorion said it's important to see patients when registering them—a lot of times they haven't seen a doctor in years, and depending on their age, there could be problems to check for.

He said it's difficult to get the province to 85 per cent registration with a family doctor because Quebecers only recently started wanting one.

"Years ago, people didn't think it was important," Drolet said. "Give us the possibility to put your name on our list, consider that you do have a family doctor, and we'll be available when you need us."

Quebec Minister of Health and Social Services Gaetan Barrette (right) looks at Louis Godin, the president of Quebec's federation of general practitioners. Barrette has said he will not change the Dec. 31 deadline. (Clement Allard/Canadian Press)

He said family doctors in Quebec are also struggling to balance the demands of working conditions their peers in other provinces don't have to deal with—like having to work in emergency rooms and hospitals as well as a family practice.

His goal is to have 1,250 patients. He said that number gives him the ability to see a patient within 48 hours of them calling for an appointment. If needed, acute cases can be handled by other staff at the clinic.

If the doctors don't meet the target of 85 per cent by the end of the year, they could be penalized up to 30 per cent of their salaries.

with files from CBC's Matt D'Amours