A doctor warns that the Quebec health system needs a radical overhaul


Jacob Reiser, 21, has been on a waiting list for a family doctor for three years.

Of the 1.8 million people living in Montreal, nearly 800,000 do not have a family doctor. The ruling party, the Coalition Avenir Québec (CAQ), which promised a doctor for everyone in the 2018 election, now says that is no longer possible.

“He’s asthmatic and he has allergies, so it’s very difficult,” says Reiser’s mother, Orit Sheck. “He needs to update his asthma meds, his allergy meds, so what do you do? »

During the election campaign, only the Liberal Party of Quebec promises that the hundreds of thousands of Quebecers waiting for a family doctor will have one.

The CAQ promises an improved digital platform to direct Quebecers to the appropriate health professional, while the Conservative Party of Quebec pleads for a greater emphasis on private medicine. Québec solidaire (QS) and the Parti québécois (PQ) promise more home services.

“Our world-class healthcare system is now ‘Call this call center and we might find you a healthcare professional,’” said Dr. Michael Kalin, a family physician in Côte Saint-Luc.

Dr. Kalin said he believes the big problem in Montreal is that doctors are often forced to work in the regions, which is why many train in Quebec and choose to practice in other provinces or states.

“Nearly 40% of Montrealers don’t have a family doctor compared to other parts of Quebec where it’s perhaps less than 10%,” says Kalin.

“The government will say that you have enough family doctors, but these figures are misleading because we know that a third of the patients seen on the island of Montreal do not live on the island of Montreal.”

Kalin thinks governments should promote family medicine, but instead many doctors complain about an adversarial relationship with Quebec’s health ministry in which they are forced to take on too many patients and are not allowed to work wherever they want.

“When the government comes in and uses this intimidating language, this intimidating legislation against family medicine, we can understand why medical students are put off,” he said.

Over the past two decades, Kalin has heard various plans and promises to improve health care in the province, but he said no government has solved the problem.

“As bad as it is now, the tsunami is coming. A quarter of family doctors are over 60,” he said, “so you can imagine what’s going to happen a decade from now.”

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