Health minister's proposed 'super clinics' garner mixed reactions
In a bid to improve Quebecers’ access to health care, Health Minister Gaetan Barrette announced Monday the creation of 50 “super clinics” across the province but reviews of the plan have been mixed.
The clinics are supposed to help keep non-urgent cases out of emergency rooms and will have to:
- Offer a minimum of 20,000 consultations a year;
- Be open 12 hours a day, seven days per week;
- Offer the possibly of making an appointments up to three hours before closing time every day;
- Offer blood and other tests on site;
- Have an agreement with an diagnostic-imaging centre that is either in or near the clinic.
Of those 20,000 consultations a year, at least 80 per cent must be with patients who either don’t have a family doctor or with patients whose family doctor doesn’t work at the clinic.
The clinics will actually be existing practices, so the plan doesn’t require the construction of new buildings. The province will designate where these clinics should be according to population and lack of services in the area.
Family physician Marc Roper said said the plan is great, in theory at least. He said he would be open to turning his facility into one of the new clinics, but there are a few sticking points, namely a shortage of general practioners in the provice. He said the plan would work best "If it was with the cooperation of the physicians. If they effectively run the clinics and control the professional environment and the government supports us. That works."
Suzanne Durand, a spokesperson for the province's nurses' union, said she was surprised to learn Barrette's plan had no mention of Quebec's nurse-practitioners. She added that as nurse-practitioners have the ability to prescribe some medications and diagnose certain illnesses, they would make a good addition to a clinic's staff.
Barrette said the clinics are an entirely different system from CLSCs, but that CLSCs can apply for super clinic designation if they are in areas that qualify.
For doctors, the main sticking point is the extended hours. While they won't be paid more, they will get extra personnel to facilitate the longer work days.
Quebec's federation of general practitioners is generally on board with the plan, but are not happy with the weekend opening hours.
The GPs say rather than having one doctor work for 12 hours, it would be better to have two doctors work eight hours, from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.
That would make the clinics easier to staff with a family doctor shortage in Quebec, and, the GPs say, most patients prefer to see them on weekend mornings.
“With this concept we think we are able to open rapidly over 60 to 70 clinics to have a real network,” said president Dr. Louis Godin.
The union representing a large portion of Quebec’s nurses and health care workers says it's a bad idea - one that will only benefit some doctors.
But patients' rights advocates are optimistic, especially due to the rule that the clinics must prioritize patients with no family doctor.