Quebec MD shortage spurs online pleas

Quebec physicians have launched an online campaign to pressure the government to address a shortage of family doctors across the province.
In the YouTube video, Quebec doctors talked about long waiting times for appointments and how hard it was to turn away patients who need them. ((YouTube))
Quebec physicians have launched an online campaign to pressure the government to address a shortage of family doctors across the province.

The group representing Quebec general practitioners has made a nine-minute YouTube video titled Diagnostic about the issue that has received almost 27,000 views since being posted on May 10. Quebecers without a family doctor have also been invited to share their stories on a Facebook page, which has drawn more 60 postings since Thursday.

According to the Fédération des médecins omipraticiens du Québec, there are more than two million Quebecers without a family doctor — about a quarter of the population. The federation says there is a shortfall of 1,100 family doctors across the province — a number that has risen 45 per cent in two years.

Gatineau resident Jean-Philippe Roy, who posted on the Facebook site, said he has been looking for a family doctor for seven years. ((CBC))
The federation's Diagnostic video, which it describes as a "shock documentary," features those statistics and follows several family physicians as they travel from the clinic to the hospital to rare house calls.

The doctors say even among patients who have a family doctor, wait times for an appointment are weeks or months, and they describe how difficult and frustrating it is to turn away patients who need them. They also decry the attitude towards family medicine: one doctor says medical students being told they are too good to become family doctors and should go into a specialty rather than waste their talent. 

Facebook stories

Many people posting on the Facebook group for people without family doctors, mainly in French, said they recently lost their doctor to retirement, or their doctor is about to retire.

Carole Laperle wrote that she is now on a one-to-two-year waiting list for a new doctor, but her daughter was refused a spot on the list because she is in good health. Laperle said she herself was previously treated for cancer, and doesn't think the disease would have been caught early enough to treat without her regular checkups.

A woman named Isabelle Boulanger wrote that the doctor who delivered her two children is practically inaccessible now, and the only way to get an annual checkup is to visit an urgent-care clinic. She said she has been using a private clinic and is glad to have the choice, but she questioned what happens to those who can't afford it.

Many posters questioned why it is so difficult for immigrant doctors to practise in Quebec.

Dr. Marcel Guilbault, president of the Association des médecins omnipraticiens de l'ouest du Québec, said the Facebook page was launched because doctors aren't being heard by the government and it was time to recruit ordinary people without doctors to raise their voices as well.

"We want to show that we're not the only ones that say there's a problem," he said.

In the Outaouais this year, new doctors will take just 11 of 21 available positions.

"Only 50 of the posts will be filled, so it's not satisfying," Guilbault said.

It's hard to find anyone willing to practise family medicine in Quebec, because specialists in the province are paid so much more, and family doctors can earn higher wages in neighbouring Ontario.

Gatineau resident Jean-Philippe Roy, who has been looking for a family doctor for seven years, was among those who posted on the Facebook page.

"In Gatineau, a family doctor just doesn't exist," he wrote.

He said he hopes the public pressure will convince the government to find a solution.