MONTREAL - The Quebec Federation of General Practitioners is speaking out against Bill 20, the Liberal government’s health care reform plan.

Gathered for a general council Saturday, family physicians criticized the new measures affecting their clinical practice, including a minimum number of patients to doctors.

“Today the general council said to the Bill 20 project – the answer is no. No way,” said Dr. Louis Godin, president of the federationwith 142 delegates that represent about 8,000 general practitioners.

The federation argues there's no guarantee that forcing doctors to take on more patients would improve access to family doctors, and it could compromise quality of care.

With an aging population, patient cases are increasingly complex, involving more serious health issues, said Godin.

“We need to take the time with the patients, to talk with our patients. We are not on a chain. We cannot say after 10 minutes, 'That's it, it's over. Go away,'” he said.

Bill 20 would also eliminate the option to work part-time.

Some argue that's unfair to female doctors trying to balance working with raising a family.

Dr. Andree Gagnon, who is not only a member of the Quebec Association of General Practitioners in Maternity Care, but is also a mother of six, agreed.

“Already the time that you spend at the hospital or the time that you spend at your office is a lot, so if you can work three days a week at least you can have two days with your children, plus the weekends,” she said.

They say this bill not only questions the future of family medicine and quality of care, and they also fear it will mean many early retirement departures and that that young people will choose other fields of study due to the bill.

“They think that this express-lane medicine that's coming with this change doesn't suit their aspiration to treat patients well, so I think that's their main concern,” said Dr. Jean Pelletier, director of the department of family and emergency medicine at Universite de Montreal.

The association says doctors have had enough of the penalties imposed by Health Minister Gaetan Barrette, who they say is manipulating the numbers.

According to Barrette, 60 per cent of general practitioners work less than 175 days per year. The average is 117 days of work, while in private care it is about 240 days.

Meanwhile, between 2005 and 2011, the number of doctors has increased by nearly 6 per cent, while the number of patients dropped 7 per cent.

Barrette said he doesn’t support a situation where the number of doctors and wages are rising during a reduction of the number of days worked.

He also said he wants every Quebecer to have access to a family doctor, and that the goal is within their reach if GPs do their part.

“What we're asking doctors to do is very simple. We're asking them to adapt their practices so that we, the general public, have access to a doctor. Period. We have enough doctors. There's nothing else to say,” he said.

An Act to enact the Act to promote access to family medicine and specialized medicine services and to amend...