The Quebec government has tabled a new bill that aims to improve front-line services by forcing family doctors to declare their hours and take appointments from those without a family doctor.
Bill 11 would make family doctors add to their caseload patients who are on the waiting list for a family doctor.
Doctors will also have to put their working schedule in an appointment booking system in order to make themselves available for appointments.
The goal is for those without a family doctor to get an appointment with a family doctor within 36 hours.
Health Minister Christian Dubé said he was inspired after seeing how well Clic-Santé, the system used to book COVID-19 vaccinations across the province, worked for Quebecers.
Over 880,000 Quebecers are currently on the waiting list for a family doctor, but at a news conference Thursday, Dubé said he believed the true number to be almost double that, around 1.5 million.
“Because Quebecers are tired of signing up to a system that doesn’t solve the problem,” he said.
Dubé encouraged Quebecers without doctors to sign up, saying the new measures would apply only to those those signed on to the Québec Family Doctor Finder (GAMF).
The government would also have the power to dictate what percentage of a doctor’s hours must be before 8 a.m., after 7 p.m., or on the weekends, in an effort to take pressure off the province’s emergency rooms.
Dubé said family doctors will be forced to make some appointments available in the system, but how many will depend on the region and how much demand there is in the area.
The system would also allow the government to gather data on how many appointments doctors are actually taking.
“One side is saying we need more doctors, and the other side is saying [doctors] aren’t working hard enough,” he said. “I’m just saying: let’s prove it, let’s have the data.”
The Health Ministry will also be allowed to use that information “for the exercise of the minister’s functions,” including sharing it with local public health agencies.
In late October, Premier François Legault said the government had drafted a list of names of family doctors across the province who “do not do a good job,” but that it wasn’t legally clear if he was allowed to share that information.
Legault’s CAQ government promised in 2018 that every Quebecer would have a family doctor by the end of the government’s first mandate in 2022.
Dubé said that those who use the platform will not be taken off the waiting list until they have been permanently assigned a family doctor.