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Finding a family doctor: there is a way
Article mis en ligne le jeudi 9 août 2012

It’s difficult, but not impossible, to find a GP if you’re one of the 40% of Montrealers classified as “orphan patients”: those who do not have a family doctor to call their own.

A panel made up of a representative of the Quebec Health and Social Services System as well as two family doctors recently addressed a community information session to offer some tips.

Martine Bouchard, associate director of primary care at the Quebec Health and Social Services System described the mandates of the Family Medicine Groups, the Integrated Network Clinics and the Network Clinics operating in Montreal. Patients must be registered to see physicians at Family Medicine Groups and Integrated Network Clinics but most are full. The Network Clinics offer walk-in services.

“How do you form a patient-doctor relationship if you see a different doctor each time?” asked a member of the audience. “Many of my fellow holocaust survivors do not have a family doctor. They go from one clinic to the next,” said Ava Haver, 89.

But people like Haver and her friends can get a family doctor if they register with a CLSC in the territory in which they live. The Quebec Health and Social Services System obliges CLSCs to find GPs for people over the age of 70, people who have a chronic disease, pregnant women, and patients who have just been released from hospital.

All other patients can be put on a waiting list, but the delay varies from one CLSC to another. Martine Bouchard says there have been improvements, however. “While 40 per cent of Montrealers don’t have a family doctor, 60 per cent do have one. We need to continue the development of the various family medicine clinic models.”

“I want every person in my territory to have a family doctor,” says Dr. Michael Kalin who works in a Family Medicine Group in the Cavendish CSSS territory. “Every Monday we call the CLSC and say do you have any names for us, please send them. There aren’t enough people who know about this list.”

But he also points out if a patient wants to change doctors because they’ve moved to another neighbourhood they should de-list themselves from the original doctor’s files, otherwise their name shows up on the RAMQ’s files as already having a family doctor and the wait will take longer.

Claire Goldman and her family lost their GP when their physician relocated to a Family Medicine Group and would only be seeing her patients one day a week in another area. Now Goldman says she knows what to do. ”I’m going to sign up with my CLSC to put myself on a waiting list for a doctor in my area.”

Le maire Michael Applebaum a rappelé qu’il est important de faire preuve de générosité pour aider les familles démunies. En cette période de l’année, les réserves des banques alimentaires s’épuisent de manière inquiétante.

Jewish General’s Herzl Family Practice Centre, says the shortage of GPs in Quebec means a new reality for patients. “Family doctors of today don’t see the same number of patients as they did 40 years ago. They’re more concerned about a work-life balance. So patients have to get used to the idea of a team approach: seeing a nurse or a dietician instead of seeing a doctor every time they go to a clinic.”

Nurse practitioners could pick up some of the slack if there were more of them in Quebec They are licensed to perform many acts, such as diagnoses and prescriptions, which were once relegated to MDs only. Right now there are 14 nurse practitioners in Quebec, 15 are about to graduate and the Quebec Ministry of Health’s goal is to eventually have 200.

[ Gerri Barrer ]

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