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Quebec doctors have a new system to acquire patients. This GP says it's flawed

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Quebec is overhauling the way doctors acquire patients in an effort to cut down on growing waiting lists.

Starting Thursday, new legislation goes into effect that will force doctors to primarily select patients through an online portal called the Quebec Family Doctor Finder – or GAMF.

It’s a problem, according to family physician Dr. Annick Gauthier, who has had problems acquiring patients through GAMF.

"One in two of the patients that the GAMF gave me did not need a family doctor, because they already had a doctor, they were dead, or they no longer lived in the province of Quebec," she said.

She said this has cost her a lot of time and money since each potential patient needs to be contacted.

"It’s such a waste of time and energy on the part of the GAMF, on the part of the doctor and the clinic trying to contact these people," she said.

Dr. Annick Gauthier said she has had problems acquiring patients through the GAMF.Quebec's health ministry told CTV News that each regional health board, or CIUSSS, has employees dedicated to continuously updating each region's list. They say it's also up to people on the waiting list to contact them if their information changes.

"It's crazy because I was contacted (by the GAMF) months after I’d already been set up with a family doctor," according to Ella Yee, who works as a medical receptionist. She said she sees the problem both from the side of patients and doctors.

"We get a lot of the blame for it, when really we're having the same issues as the patients we're serving," she said.

Dr. Guillaume Charbonneau of the Quebec Federation of General Practitioners (FMOQ) said he cautions new family doctors when they are looking for patients through the GAMF.

"I say to them if you want to have 30 new patients, I need to send you a list of 100 because otherwise you won’t be able to fill your spots," he explained.

He said he understands the government is trying to do something to meet the increasing number of Quebecers needing family doctors, but taking away doctors' discretion in how they acquire patients and forcing them to only use the GAMF won’t solve the problem.

The FMOQ estimates there’s currently a shortage of 1,500 family doctors, and warns in the next five years they’re expecting a wave of retirements.

"We have to make the system as fluid as we can. By putting out news rules, even with good intentions, unfortunately we create new problems," said Charbonneau. 

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