Will 85% of Quebecers have family doctors by year's end? The doctors aren't sure

Dr. Louis Godin, president of Quebec's federation of general practitioners, said despite signing up 12,000 patients per week, he doesn't think doctors will be able to meet the target established by the government.

Family doctors agreed to 85 per cent target, proposed by Health Minister Gaétan Barrette, in 2015

Quebec's family doctors were supposed to make sure 85 per cent of Quebecers had a GP by the end of 2017, but now they are saying they aren't sure they'll meet that target. (David Donnelly/CBC)

Quebec's federation of general practitioners (FMOQ) is warning that it may not be able to ensure 85 per cent of Quebecers have a family doctor by the end of year.

The province's family doctors have until Dec. 31 to meet the target, which they agreed to during negotiations over the controversial Bill 20 in 2015.

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

FMOQ president, Dr. Louis Godin, said despite signing up 12,000 patients per week, he doesn't think it will be possible. 

"We definitely have a challenge ahead of us," Godin said.

According to CBC's French-language network, Radio-Canada, the most up-to-date figures show 75.4 per cent of Quebecers had a family doctor as of March 31.

Health minister believes goal can be reached

Godin says the number of people signing up with a family doctor is on the rise and he doesn't think a hard deadline is fair.

But Health Minister Gaétan Barrette said he has no plans to change the deadline.
Quebec Health Minister Gaetan Barrette (right) looks at Louis Godin, now the president of Quebec's federation of general practitioners, during a 2015 news conference at the Quebec legislature. Barrette has said he will not change the Dec. 31 deadline. (Clement Allard/Canadian Press)

The original plan to increase access to family doctors included requiring general practitioners to take on a minimum number of patients.

That quota system, a controversial aspect of the law, drew criticism from family doctors and was eventually dropped, but the doctors still had to find a way to ensure they could been the 85 per cent target. 

Barrette said he is optimistic the goal can be reached, adding there are some regions where 90 per cent of residents have family doctors. Montreal and the surrounding areas appear to be the least likely to meet the target.

Based on a report by Radio-Canada's Davide Gentile