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Quebec health minister softens tone with family doctors on GAP renewal

Quebec Health Minister Christian Dube responds to the Opposition during question period, Wednesday, May 22, 2024 at the legislature in Quebec City. (Jacques Boissinot, The Canadian Press) Quebec Health Minister Christian Dube responds to the Opposition during question period, Wednesday, May 22, 2024 at the legislature in Quebec City. (Jacques Boissinot, The Canadian Press)
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In a complete change of tone, Quebec Health Minister Christian Dubé hinted on Tuesday that he was confident of reaching an agreement with family doctors to renew the primary care access window (GAP).

"Today is Tuesday, the agreement ends on Friday, and I've often seen in my career negotiations that end at the last minute because the parties have found solutions," said Dubé in a press scrum.

The Health Minister and the Fédération des médecins omnipraticiens du Québec (FMOQ) are engaged in a new arm wrestling match. This conflict could deprive thousands of Quebecers of access to medical appointments.

In 2022, Dubé and the FMOQ agreed that family medicine groups (GMF) would take on patients who had previously been without a doctor.

An annual premium of $120 was paid for each patient registered with an FMG through the GAP.

This agreement expires this Friday, without the parties having agreed on any new terms. In recent days, clinics have been writing to patients to inform them that they will no longer be monitored as of Friday.

On learning of this, Dubé accused the FMOQ on Saturday of taking the public "hostage", a charge promptly rejected by FMOQ president Dr. Marc-André Amyot.

On Tuesday, Amyot denied in the media that he had instructed doctors to stop seeing GAP patients. A conciliator has been appointed in the case.

"I'm committed to not being intransigent over the next few days, and I'd ask the same of the FMOQ union leadership," said Dubé.

Opposition calls for rapid resolution of conflict

The Liberal Opposition is calling for a swift resolution to the dispute between the government and doctors.

"At the heart of our concern is access to services for the patient," said interim leader Marc Tanguay.

Similarly, Québec solidaire parliamentary leader Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois called on the parties to put "water in their wine".

"Everyone needs to be in compromise mode. We can't allow people to lose access to the first line of health care in Quebec," he said. "So, please, collaboration, listening, compromise on both sides so that, by the end of the week, we can reach an agreement. We can't go backwards in Quebec when it comes to access to primary care."

The Parti Québécois said that, at the time of signing, Dubé described the agreement with family doctors as "historic".

"Today, that agreement is coming to an end, and the minister wants to extend it without having negotiated what comes next. I'm asking the minister to be consistent. If he thinks his solution is so good, fine, let him make it work,” said PQ MNA Joël Arseneau.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published in French on May 28, 2024. 

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