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Quebec has more private doctors that any other Canadian province. This doctor explains why

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Quebec is has more private doctors than any other province in the country -- why are so many choosing to practice outside the public system?

One family doctor who has worked on both sides shared his story with CTV News Montreal.

Dr. Martin Potter runs the clinic Clinique Medicale Sante Plus in Vaudreuil.

Patients can get a same-day appointment to see a family doctor, but they have to pay a fee: 15-minute appointment costs $150.

Potter said many of his patients do the math and find it's worth it.

"Instead of going to an emergency room where (they're) going to have to wait 10 hours and miss a whole day's work, they bite the bullet and pay the fee," he said.

Potter said he never thought he would make the leap from public to private until a few years ago.

Having spent nearly 20 years working in the public system, in both Montreal and Gaspe, he said there was a noticeable shift in 2015, when then Health Minister Gaetan Barrette overhauled the health-care system.

He said instead of making things more efficient, doctors were micromanaged. Things didn't improve when the CAQ took power, and Christian Dube made his own health reforms, he said.

"In order to take on a proper caseload, you have to work long days. The appointments have to be short in duration, and that's not great medicine," he said.

"So after a while, I realized it may not be the best model for me. And I wanted to take back a little bit of control in how I practice medicine," he said.

So he decided to start a private clinic.

He's now among over 500 family doctors who've made a similar decision.

The Canadian Medical Association's Dr. Jean-Joseph Condé, a family physician in Val D'Or, said that decision usually comes down to working conditions.

"In Quebec it seems the government is looking at putting more restrictions around the practice, which we don't think is working because Quebec has the most doctors working in the private system," he said.

What's more alarming for the future of public medicine in the province is that so many new residents are bypassing family medicine altogether.

Of all the current family doctor residency vacancies in the country, 93 per cent of them are in Quebec.

"I don't think that physicians go into the private system for money," Condé said. Instead, they go "to work in a better environment."

Potter said that's what motivated him, and even though some may be critical of his decision to leave the public system, he has no regrets. "There will always be a faction of family doctors who believe exclusively in public health care, and that's great. And I was one of them a few years ago," he said. 

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