MONTREAL - Star CAQ candidate Gaetan Barrette has been facing intense scrutiny for his promise to provide each Quebecer with a direct access to a family doctor within a year.

The former head of the Medical Specialists Federation says he will succeed in accomplishing what many consider impossible.

“A health minister has the power to say to his network: ‘as of today, you will make your schedule in such a way to have slots in your schedule reserved for family physicians in your area,’” said Barrette.

His solution involves better coordination between the work of the general practitioners working in clinics, and medical specialists who work in hospitals.

If the two can work together, he says, it will even reduce the wait time to see the specialists. His theory is based on models he claims are used in the United Kingdom.

But even though Barrette says he can do what his predecessors failed to achieve in the past, many people, starting with doctors and patients think his solutions are simply unrealistic.

“It's a very short deadline we're sure of that, we have a lot of work for one year, and it's very complex and we have a shortage of family physicians,” said Dr. Louis Godin of the Federation of General Practitioners.

Barrette says he'd be willing to give GPs what they want terms of budgets and resources, providing they take on more patients.

“At some point a doctor has to choose between resistance from let’s say 8,000 doctors, and the interests of 8 million citizens,” said Barrette.

Both the Parti Quebecois and the Liberals promise to accelerate the current system of creating medical family units that provide access to general practitioners. Both parties also agree there's a shortage of GPs, something Barrette denies.

A random sampling of Montrealers revealed conducted Wednesday by CTV Montreal suggested that many voters remain skeptical.

When asked whether he would resign as Minister of Health if elected and the promise failed, Barrette has refused to make that promise.

“I'll deliver the goods,” he replied.

The former radiologist also defended CAQ lieutenant Jacques Duchesneau from allegations that he had improperly accounted for donations received at a fundraiser in 1998 when Duchesneau was running for mayor of Montreal.

Called “incorruptible” several times during the campaign by CAQ leader Francois Legault, the allegations cast a shadow on the man slated to tackle Quebec’s endemic problem with corruption.

On Wednesday, Barrette said that the CAQ had dismissed the allegations and stood behind Duchesneau. The poor accounting of donations was not illegal at the time and the allegations, made on Radio-Canada’s main investigative program, could not attributed to anyone but anonymous sources.

Duchesneau ended the 1998 mayoral race with a debt in excess of $300,000.

-With files from The Canadian Press