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Quebec eyes progressive retirement for family doctors to address shortage

There could be a deal announced soon that would allow retiring physicians in Quebec to work part-time to help address the shortage of family doctors in the province.

Wednesday afternoon, the Quebec college of physicians confirmed it has been part of a working group with the government and the Fédération des médecins omnipraticiens du Québec (FMOQ) on this issue since 2021.

The Collège des médecins du Québec told CTV News there are several factors that explain why it is difficult for a doctor to slow down at the end of their career.

"There is the question of ethical obligations, but there is also the question of the organization of care and services because doctors working part-time would have to let some patients go," the college said in a statement.

"Following the Project, the College therefore prioritized the issue of cessation of practice and led work with the FMOQ and the [Ministry of Health and Social Services] in order to see how it is possible to put in place a structure that will allow doctors to reduce the number of patients they are responsible for while respecting their ethical obligations."

The statement went on to say that, while the discussions between the three groups have ended, there is "an administrative issue to be resolved" that is not the responsibility of the College.

"Subsequently, we will be able to announce the measures," the college said.

When we asked how soon this agreement could happen they suggested it could be in the coming days. If so, it would allow doctors nearing the end of their careers to keep working, rather than an all-or-nothing pproach that creates thousands of orphan patients each time.

In the meantime, Quebec Health Minister Christian Dubé is blaming the opposition Liberals for the shortage of family doctors in the province.

The health minister said it's because the Liberal government put a limit on the number of medical school students. Le Devoir first reported on Tuesday that there was a net loss of 49 family doctors in Quebec in the last year because only 400 general practitioners began working in 2022-23 while 450 retired.

Dubé says it's because, until 2018, the government had a cap on admissions to medical schools that did not keep up with the number of doctors retiring in Quebec. He also mentioned the talks to get older doctors to stay on part-time.

He also said the number of admissions to med schools over the next few years could reach more than 1,000 each year so that should also help fix the issue.

There are currently about a million Quebecers without a family doctor.

"With all the doctors going into retirement, it was obvious that there would be a catastrophe. Did the health minister raise the number of students in medicine? I don't know," said Quebec solidaire MNA Sol Zanetti. "Did it have an effect? Those are questions that we could ask him." Top Stories

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