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No relief in sight as more than half a million Quebecers waiting for family doctor


More than half a million Quebecers are still waiting for a family doctor but it appears reinforcements are not on their way.

Family medicine continues to be the least popular specialization for new doctors in Quebec. There's an urgent need for more GPs and yet close to 20 per cent of residency positions for next year are vacant.

On Tuesday, medical students were matched with their residency programs. Students select the programs they want, programs list the doctors they want and an algorithm matches them together.

At the end of the first round of matching, 91 family medicine positions in Quebec remain unfilled, compared to just six positions in all the other specializations combined.

"I think it's not so surprising. I think it's something that we were expecting and something that we've seen as well in the past few years," said Dr. Neb Kovacina, a family doctor.

Kovacina, who teaches family medicine at McGill University, says it's a less attractive career choice for many students.

"When the care is not well coordinated, family doctors are spending more time with paperwork, with administrative work, with low-value clinical visits with patients who cannot access these services and that decreases our capacity to see patients who really need us," Kovacina said.

Many of the half-million Quebec residents on the wait list for a family doctor have been waiting for multiple years.

A patient's rights advocate says the job needs to be made more attractive quickly

"I am sure that young doctors, residents would want to do more community medicine, but they're not very encouraged," said Paul Brunet.

He said when patients don't have a family doctor they turn to the emergency room. More family doctors would help alleviate the ER overcrowding, he added, but the system is losing family doctors faster than they can be replaced.

"We have, also, the retiring family doctors who are leaving a large number of patients. And we know that new graduates cannot absorb this number as soon as they start their practice," Kovacina said.

For students that didn't get placed last week, there's a second round of matching next month and some of the vacancies in family medicine could be filled.

However, there is still a long way to go before every Quebecer can have a family doctor. Top Stories

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