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Liberal MNA shows Quebec health minister how difficult it is to get a doctor's appointment

Liberal MNA for Pontiac, André Fortin, during question period at the Quebec National Assembly in the nation's capital, Tuesday, March 28, 2023. MNA André Fortin took advantage of Tuesday's budget review to show the Minister of Health how difficult it is to get a medical appointment. LA PRESSE CANADIENNE/Jacques Boissinot
Liberal MNA for Pontiac, André Fortin, during question period at the Quebec National Assembly in the nation's capital, Tuesday, March 28, 2023. MNA André Fortin took advantage of Tuesday's budget review to show the Minister of Health how difficult it is to get a medical appointment. LA PRESSE CANADIENNE/Jacques Boissinot
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Quebec Liberal MNA André Fortin took advantage of Tuesday's budget review to show the Minister of Health just how difficult it is to get a medical appointment.

In the middle of a parliamentary commission, Fortin visited the "Québec Medical Appointment Scheduler" website to try to get a consultation with his own family doctor in the Outaouais region.

"It tells me: 'No appointments meeting your search criteria are available at the moment'", he read aloud.

The elected official then tried to get an appointment with another health professional in the same Family Medicine Group, then at a clinic within a 25-kilometre radius, without success.

"What do we do?" he asked Health Minister Christian Dubé, who suggested he use the Guichet d'accès à la première ligne (GAP).

Fortin said his assistant, who doesn't have a family doctor, recently tried her luck with GAP in the Outaouais region, but couldn't get an appointment.

"So, what's this person to do?" repeated Fortin, pointing out that the government is asking Quebecers not to go to emergency rooms.

He asserted that the Clic Santé portal often directs patients to fee-based services from private clinics.

Dubé recalled that family doctors have committed to releasing 900,000 appointments annually. In two weeks' time, he will know whether these slots will indeed be made available to Quebecers.

Dubé's team revealed on Tuesday that the "crisis cell" set up in 2022 to improve the situation in emergency departments will be maintained.

Fortin lamented that occupancy rates in many of the province's ERs are so high that they are putting patients' lives at risk. "The situation hasn't changed a bit," he said.

Assistant Deputy Minister Dr. Stéphane Bergeron replied that the crisis unit meets every two weeks and met just last Friday.

"There is a clear desire to perpetuate an operational cell with a focus on how to reduce the average length of stay in the emergency department, and improve care in the emergency department," he said.

Fortin recalled during the exchange that the Coalition avenir Québec (CAQ) had promised in 2018 to reduce the average wait to 90 minutes to see a doctor in the ER.

He lamented that only four of the 115 emergency rooms in Quebec reach the 90-minute mark. At the Anna-Laberge hospital in Châteauguay, the wait was more than 13 hours Tuesday evening. 

Private mini-hospitals will be geriatric clinics

The CAQ also promised during the 2022 election campaign to build two private mini-hospitals, one in Montreal and the other in Quebec City, to relieve congestion in the health-care system.

On Tuesday, Québec solidaire (QS) health critic Vincent Marissal asked Minister Dubé about the conversion of these mini-hospitals, which he saw announced in the appropriation books.

Dubé confirmed that the mini-hospitals will eventually be converted into geriatric clinics, "much more oriented towards the needs of an aging clientele."

This report by The Canadian Press was first published in French on April 16, 2024. 

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