Quebec physicians concerned about access to family doctors and specialists, survey reveals

The Gazette

The shortage of family doctors in Quebec and access to specialties, such as orthopedics and psychiatry, continue to be a major concern of Quebec doctors, according to the results of a national survey of 20,000 physicians released today by the Canadian Medical Association.

Quebec physicians reported that, in many cases, it is their perception that access to medical services has deteriorated since the last survey in 2004.

A total of 61 per cent of family doctors feel that the access their patients have to psychiatrists is fair to poor, up from 58 per cent in 2004.

Similarly, 61 per cent of physicians said their patients access to orthopedists is fair to poor, an increase from 48 per cent in 2004.

The majority of specialists and family doctors feel that funding is the main obstacle to health care, along the bureaucracy and staff availability.

“The concern is especially acute among specialists, whose practice in institutions often depends on the availability of specialized staff, infrastructure and equipment,” said Jean-Bernard Trudeau, president of the Quebec Medical Association, an association representing 9,000 general practitioners, specialists, residents and medical students.

The survey showed that physicians want a better balance between their work and personal lives. About 37 per cent of general practitioners and 40 per cent of specialists say they would like to shorten their work week in the next two years.
Nearly half of family physicians – 47 per cent – did not use the services of a replacement physicians last year because they were unable to find one.

“This is the highest level in Canada.. it has serious repercussions  for work satisfaction and professional burnout,” Trudeau said.

The difficulty in accessing physicians – Quebec is short 800 family doctors – will remain problematic because, not only due many doctors want to reduce their work week, about 5 per cent of Quebec physicians plan to retire in the next two years.

Trudeau said he hopes the government’s decision to increase the number of medical students will help alleviate the problem. As well, many of the doctors who plan to retire are already on a reduced work week, he said.

The study showed that Quebec is the province with the highest rate of female physicians. In Quebec, a total of 72 per cent of family physicians under 35 are women.

Despite all the problems with medical care, Trudeau said he was heartened to see that 84 per cent of physicians have good relationships with their patients.

The National Physician Survey, which was conducted by the Canadian Medical Association, The Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada and The College of Family Physicians of Canada.

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