What's gone wrong: More than 800,000 Quebecers wait for family doctor
Four years ago, the CAQ promised a family doctor for every Quebecer, but in the last election campaign, it had to admit that wouldn't be possible, which has left many people feeling lost in the system.
Gevevieve Charrette has been on the waiting list for a family doctor for over a year, ever since she learned her doctor was switching to a specialty and giving up her family practice.
"Especially at this time, of the age I am at right now, I'm probably in perimenopause, and I think it's the time I would need the follow-up of a family doctor and go through that process in the upcoming years, but I'm left alone," she said.
According to the health ministry, Charrette is one of 864,062 Quebecers on the waiting list for a family doctor, a list that has more than doubled since 2018.
The head of the Primary Care Division at the MUHC, Dr. Mark Roper, says a full-time family doctor will make more than 2,000 diagnoses per year, everything from high cholesterol, to hypertension, to diabetes. By catching conditions and illnesses early, family doctors can prevent life-threatening complications such as stroke and heart attack, he said.
"For every 100,000 people who do not have a family doctor, we observe an increased mortality of 60 per year," he said, adding that would mean 360 Montrealers die each year because of lack of access to a family physician.
MAJOR HURDLES TO OVERCOME
Roper says one of the larger issues is an unequal distribution of family doctors across Quebec. The province dictates where doctors can work, based on need, through a permit system known as PREM.
In recent years, the CAQ has reduced the number of doctors who can work in Montreal, though Roper said there aren't enough family physicians in some parts of the city.
"We're at about 68 per cent [of people with a family doctor] on average across the island," he said, adding some neighbourhoods in central and downtown Montreal, only hit 58 to 60 per cent.
The province isn't accounting for what's known as 'portability of patients' when it looks at its data, he explained, so it only counts the population of people living in a given neighbourhood.
"What's happening is a lot of people work or study in Montreal, but they live in the 450 area, the suburbs -- but they still have a doctor in Montreal," he said.
By his estimate, around 388,000 non-Montrealers are registered with Montreal family doctors.
- READ MORE: Where are the family doctors?
Quebec's family doctors are also retiring at a much faster rate than they're being replaced, said Dr. Alain Papineau, the president of the Quebec College of Family Physicians.
"We're barely replacing the ones that are leaving," he said, adding 24 per cent of doctors are over 60 years old, and medical students aren't necessarily choosing to specialize in family medicine.
"If you want to go to Montreal and there's no [positions] in Montreal you'll be offered a position in the regions somewhere, not necessarily what you want to do and not where you want to go," he said.
He also believes some students are turned off by that lack of flexibility in the system, and seeing doctors struggle to achieve work-life balance. The relationship between physicians and provincial governments over the years has often been tense, with doctors pressured to take on more patients and with some politicians suggesting they don't work hard enough.
"Physicians are tired. They've given their maximum for COVID, and they're just overwhelmed with their practices right now," said Papineau.
ACCESSING HEALTHCARE FOR CHILDREN
Many parents in Quebec are also struggling to access care for their children, especially in situations that may not require a trip to the emergency department.
Across the province, 427,763 children are without a family doctor.
Philippa Bell's children, ages 5 and 9, fall into another category entirely: those who have a doctor, but who are under-served.
She says their pediatrician is excellent; however, they're almost always booked solid when they try to make an appointment. When their children are sick, Bell and her partner spend a lot of time on the phone and online, trying to get an appointment at another clinic.
"It's stressful because when it's so difficult to have access to care, you don't want to take your child if you don't need to take your child. However, as a non-doctor, how are we supposed to know what is really urgent and what's not?" she said.
Papineau said all children don't need to be followed by one family doctor or pediatrician, though he understands that would be reassuring for parents.
"[Children with] chronic illnesses, asthma, for example, I think those children should have follow-up by a physician or family physician in a team," he said.
Dr. Laurie Plotnick, who heads the emergency department and the Montreal Children's Hospital agreed, adding someone should be following children, but that could be a team of doctors within a family medicine group or nurse practitioners.
"A health-care practitioner who can assess them, follow them, treat them," she said, and added expanding those types of clinics in the Montreal area is difficult because there isn't enough staff. Primary care practitioners already see a huge volume of patients, and there's a shortage of nurses and other health-care workers provincewide.
The province set a goal in the spring to register 375 000 people in Group Family Medicine clinics by De. 31. Today it says it has surpassed that goal, registering 388,284 people. It’s aiming to get the number to 500,000 by March 31, 2023.
With many respiratory viruses circulating and hospital emergency rooms overwhelmed, Plotnick recommends checking the Montreal Children's Hospital website for tips on determining if your child needs to go to the ER.
"Certainly a child who's having trouble breathing, not just a stuffy nose, but they really look like they're using all their muscles to breathe," she said. "They're very sleepy when they shouldn't be. Kids are quieter with a fever, but I'm talking about kids who are difficult to wake up when they should wake up. [Children] who are dehydrated, very dry mouth, not urinating, children with head injuries, sleepy, very, very bad headache -- those are kids we need to see."
Plotnick also recommended parents return to preventative measures with their children, such as frequent hand-washing, getting the flu vaccine, keeping children home from school when they're sick, and wearing masks.
For Roper, introducing family medicine groups and super clinics into the health-care network has been a positive change in improving access to care. Not everyone needs to be seen by a doctor, or the same doctor, at every visit, he added. The clinics combine doctors, nurses and other health-care professionals.
The province has also expanded the 811 Info-Sante phone line to include a primary care access point, known as the GAP, to help direct people to the appropriate health service, to ease pressure on emergency rooms.
For children, 811 also includes a feature based on the 'One Call, One Appointment' hotline set up for parents during the Omicron wave. If it's determined a child needs a consultation, someone will help parents book an appointment with the appropriate resource, be it a doctor, nurse or pharmacist.
Last week, Quebec’s health minister said 811 was "working well" but there weren't enough people staffing the phone lines. Christian Dube called for retired and private agency nurses to sign up at the province's Je Contribue site to help with the busy phone line, noting they could use around 5,000 nurses.
The province is also opening two specialized clinics in Montreal where people can see nurse practitioners.
Ultimately, it will take a full review of the health-care system, to really improve access to care, Papineau said.
Until that happens, Charrette is still holding onto hope she'll be paired up with a new family doctor.
"Just someone who will have my background history, someone who's able to do all the needed follow-ups, someone who will know what happened in the previous months and years," she said.
CTVNews.ca Top Stories
The suspected Chinese surveillance balloon that was found floating over sensitive military sites in the western United States had been tracked by Canada's government since last weekend as it passed through Canadian airspace, sources tell CTV News.
The oldest preserved vertebrate brain has been found in a 319-million-year-old fossilized fish skull that was removed from an English coal mine over a century ago.
It took 40 years, but former NHL player and coach Ted Nolan is now one of eight Indigenous ex-NHL-ers being honoured hockey trading cards as a part of Upper Deck's First Peoples Rookie Card series.
A B.C. man who was mistaken for the target in a police takedown and shot by an officer in 2013 has had his lawsuit alleging negligence dismissed.
Three bodies found in a vacant Detroit-area apartment building have been identified as those of three aspiring rappers who went missing nearly two weeks ago, police said Friday.
For much of disgraced South Carolina attorney Alex Murdaugh's double murder trial, witnesses have talked about a generous and loving man -- but prosecutors want jurors to know that same man stole over US$4 million from his housekeeper's relatives after she died at work, and killed his wife and son to cover up his crimes.
A senior aide to Japan's prime minister is being dismissed after making discriminatory remarks about LGBTQ2S+ people.
A jury on Friday decided Elon Musk didn't deceive investors with his 2018 tweets about electric automaker Tesla.
A new research from a citizen science program suggests that stars are disappearing before our eyes at an 'astonishing rate.'
Speed cameras clocked a car driving 70 km/h over the limit. Here's how the owner fought the ticket and won
After being charged with speeding by a city-operated photo radar device, a Toronto family was able to successfully fight the charge in court largely due to one small detail.
The death of a longtime CBC journalist who was shoved to the ground in Toronto has now been classified as a homicide and police have issued an arrest warrant for a suspect in the case.
Police are investigating a stabbing in downtown Toronto Friday night.
Temperatures are plummeting across the Maritimes as a blast of Arctic air moves into the region.
A seafood processing plant in Portage, N.B., has been completely destroyed following a major fire Friday afternoon.
Atlantic Lottery says it has been contacted by a player who believes they have the winning ticket to this week's $31 million Lotto Max Draw.
The public is being asked to avoid the area of Sixth Avenue in Woodstock, Ont. on Friday afternoon due to an “active police investigation” following a grim discovery made by police.
Extreme cold and snow squall warnings are impacting roads and school bus operations in the region, and multiple area roads and highways have been closed by OPP due to hazardous driving conditions.
Mounting resistance to infill development in neighbourhoods is testing city council’s commitment to The London Plan’s intensification targets. However, one prominent project is bucking the trend.
Canada's newest millionaire, an 18-year-old university freshman from northern Ontario, has achieved a lot of firsts with a recent lottery win. Here is her story.
Ontario Provincial Police have closed a portion of Highway 400 north of Toronto following multiple collisions due to whiteout conditions.
An investigation that lasted almost two years has resulted in moose hunting violation convictions for six people and a lodge in Red Lake in northwestern Ontario.
Alberta's high court is being asked to overturn a review board decision relating to the stabbing deaths of five young people at a Calgary house party on the grounds the former provincial justice minister interfered.
Police are investigating a series of tire slashing incidents in northeast Calgary.
Thousands of Alberta lawyers are expected to take part in an online debate Monday morning over the issue of mandatory Indigenous history training.
Police say they’ve arrested three people and one person was taken to hospital following an armed robbery at Conestoga Mall on Thursday.
Ontario Provincial Police are once again reminding drivers to clear the snow and ice off of their vehicles before they head out onto the road.
Waterloo regional police issued a robbery warning Thursday evening after they said two convenience stores and a restaurant in Kitchener were robbed within a 30 minute span.
The mayors of Port Coquitlam and Port Moody want Nav Canada — the organization that creates flight paths for airports across the country — to pause its plans for a new YVR arrivals route that will direct many large airplanes over their communities.
'Just absolute scum of the earth': Family upset after senior with dementia defrauded by someone posing as care worker
Seventy-nine-year-old William Herbert thought the woman coming to see him was a nurse who needed to do bloodwork. But instead of helping him, it’s alleged she stole from him.
Homicide investigators are looking into whether a vehicle fire in Surrey on Thursday morning is connected to the fatal shooting of a 17-year-old boy in Burnaby hours later.
An Edmonton man who received a ticket from the city under the phase 2 residential parking ban earlier this week says his street has finally been plowed — five days after his vehicle was ticketed.
Marc, Seth and Zacary James are the Melisizwe Brothers, and they performed at Jasper Place High School on Friday as part of Edmonton Public School Black History Month celebrations.
New MRI-radiation hybrid machine in Alberta expected to improve cancer treatment by at least 20 per cent
Technology in Alberta that is expected to allow doctors to more accurately and effectively treat cancerous tumours with radiation enters clinical trials next week.
'Wouldn't it be wonderful if they could get it back?': Woman on mission to identity people in old photographs
A River Canard, Ont. woman is on a mission to identify several unknown people in a handful of old photographs she said she found in a box inside her attic. She said she discovered the pictures and postcards while decluttering her home as part of her New Year’s resolution, noticing many date back to the mid 1940s.
The Windsor-Essex Board of Health will move ahead with a compromise that will allow the SafePoint consumption and treatment site (CTS) to open at its previously approved location as soon as possible.
Real estate in Windsor-Essex has been a rollercoaster ride over the past few years and in January, the wild ride continued.
Saskatchewan is reacting to the removal of controversial amendment G4 to Bill C-21 by the federal Liberals, which banned certain semi-automatic rifles and shotguns.
Residents in Regina's North Central community are voicing safety concerns after a water main break resulted in icy sidewalk and road conditions.
A local non-profit is hoping a new office space can help reconnect Indigenous youth to their culture.
A federal government department has fired 49 employees who received the Canada Emergency Response Benefit while they were employed.
CTVNewsOttawa.ca looks at the cancellations and closures in the Ottawa area due to the extreme cold temperatures.
EXTREME COLD WARNING
EXTREME COLD WARNING | Deep freeze hits Ottawa, wind chill drops below -40
Extreme cold temperatures will continue to grip Ottawa and eastern Ontario Friday night and Saturday morning, with the wind chill making it feel colder than -40.
BHP is moving forward with its plans to build the world's largest potash mine.
After months of driving around the city with an advertisement for a kidney donor on her bright red car, Debbie Onishenko will soon be able to rip off the decals as her search has ended.
The community of Dundurn is rallying behind a firefighter who lost her home in a fire.