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Nearly 1 million Quebecers could return to waiting list for doctor if agreement isn't reached

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There are growing concerns that hundreds of thousands of Quebecers could end up back on the long wait list for a family doctor.

An agreement between the province and the Quebec Federation of General Practitioners gives patients without a family doctor access to primary care services, but it expires at the end of May.

Health Minister Christian Dubé was on the defensive Thursday about the matter, insisting the GAP, the front-line portal that gives patients without a family doctor access to primary care, is a permanent measure.

The deal includes an annual premium of $120 for each patient enrolled through the portal.

Dubé said he's prepared to renegotiate with the Quebec Federation of General Practitioners, but there's no guarantee they'll reach a deal by the deadline.

"He's basically put all of his eggs into one basket and left this negotiation to the last second," said Liberal health critic André Fortin.

Fortin said since 2022, nearly 1 million Quebecers signed up through the GAP for a spot in a Group Family Medicine (GMF) clinic.

So far it's unclear if those patients will still have access as of June.

"They thought this was forever. They didn't think it was, 'Oh, I'll have access for a year and if the health minister's not able to renegotiate this with the family physicians, then I'll go back on the waitlist.' That's not the deal that was made to them," said Fortin.

Dubé said he wants to determine if the system improves access to care, adding there won't be more money if there isn't more access.

"The doctors are very professional, and I think they will respect that deal," he said.

The doctors' federation, however, isn't sure, saying ending the $120 premium could risk a reduction in access to care.

"We won't have all the manpower. We'll have to decide what we do with the staff that we hired in one month -- if we continue to hire them, if we don't have the money anymore," explained FMOQ vice-president Dr. Guillaume Charbonneau.

In the meantime, the federation said affected GPs are unsure whether they should continue to open appointments beyond June.  

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