Montreal

Montreal North has new clinic with new equipment, but not enough doctors

A clinic in the borough of Montreal North has only been open for two years, features state-of-the-art equipment and has fully electronic patient records — but it may have to shut its doors because it doesn't have enough doctors.

‘They don't want to come to Montreal North’: Doctor shortage jeopardizes future of Rayons de Soleil clinic

Dr. Florence Legros says her clinic needs at least two more family doctors to meet the demand in the neighbourhood. (CBC)

A clinic in the borough of Montreal North has been open for only two years, features state-of-the-art equipment and has fully electronic patient records — but it may have to shut its doors because it doesn't have enough doctors.

"They don't want to come to Montreal North. They think it's dangerous," said Dr. Florence Legros, the founder of Rayons de Soleil clinic on d'Amiens Street.

Currently, the clinic has four family doctors working there, some on a part-time basis only.

They don't want to come to Montreal North. They think it's dangerous.- Dr. Florence Legros, founder of Rayons de Soleil clinic

​Legros needs to fill at least two more positions, but she says general practitioners are not interested in working in the underprivileged neighbourhood.

"We are in an area where there are…immigrants," she said, adding that the community is already underserved.

"You know what kind of problems we can have when those people don't have health care … so I hope we can find doctors."

The Rayons de Soleil clinic, which has been open for two years, has brand new equipment and electronic files for all its patients. (CBC)
Patient advocacy groups say this isn't a problem confined to Montreal North.

Jérôme Di Giovanni of the group ACCESS says immigrant populations in Montreal have a harder time finding a doctor.

He says the number of immigrants in the city will continue to rise, and a solution is needed now.

"It is clear that in Montreal we're going to [reach an immigrant population of]  40 per cent, 45 per cent fairly soon, so this is an emergency. This is very important that the minister steps up," Di Giovanni said. 

Ministry 'tightening the reins'

Quebec Health Minister Gaétan Barrette said that current laws allow his ministry to control the number of doctors per territory, but they don't allow the province to force doctors to work at a specific site. 

He acknowledged there is an issue with getting doctors to practice in disadvantaged areas.

"It's an important problem that we have been addressing every year. We are tightening the reins by limiting the possibilities for doctors to go work where they choose," Barrette said.

"You will see next year, when we post the available spots, there will be fewer available spots in some neighbourhoods versus others."

Barrette said the health ministry will keep trying to open more positions in the areas that need them.

Quebec Health Minister Gaétan Barrette says that because doctors are autonomous professionals, the law forbids the ministry from imposing a specific workplace. (CBC)
Meanwhile the health agency in charge of the region, the CIUSSS du Nord-de-l'Île-de-Montréal, says it's also working closely with the ministry to find solution.

In a statement sent to CBC via email, the agency said the situation is improving. In the last two years, more people have been registering for a family doctor, and since April 1, 2017, about 1,700 people have had access to a family doctor.

It added that the most "vulnerable clientele is prioritized."

With files from CBC's Matt D'Amours

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