Quebec reaches agreement with family physicians for better access to primary care

The Quebec government has reached an agreement with the Fédération des médecins omnipraticiens du Québec (FMOQ) to give Quebecers easier access to primary care.

In a press release issued Sunday afternoon, Quebec said the agreement would allow patients registered with a family doctor to access them within 36 to 72 hours, depending on their clinical situation.

For those who are not registered with a family physician, a platform called the Guichet d'accès à la première ligne (family physician access window), which is under development, will be used to make appointments within a "reasonable" time frame.

"The agreement in principle we are announcing today is the result of several months of discussions, sometimes intense, but always with the shared vision that the status quo is no longer an option when it comes to access," said Health and Social Services Minister Christian Dubé in a press release.

The FMOQ said the participation of each physician will be voluntary within the framework of the measures contained in the agreement.

"We are aware that these changes will require support, resilience and the contribution of many partners, including health care institutions and regional departments of general medicine in each region. I am convinced that together we can make a difference for the good of the population and our health care system," added Dubé.

The agreement in principle will not cost taxpayers anything extra, as it draws its funding from the envelope already available in the 2015-2023 framework agreement.

FMOQ members will have to ratify this agreement, which will be presented in the coming weeks. A consultative vote will occur at the end of May, but the federation says it plans to "move forward with many of the innovative measures" it has been proposing for several months.

"It's time to do things differently in Quebec, including sharing collective responsibility for access to care with other health professionals and investing heavily in our front line of care," said FMOQ President Dr. Marc-André Amyot.

"The right professional for the right patient at the right time must be the underlying objective of all our actions, and this agreement is clearly a good step in that direction."

The FMOQ represents 9,500 members across the province. Despite the agreement in principle announced Sunday, it reiterates that it is still opposed to certain "counter-productive" aspects of Bill 11, which is aimed at increasing the supply of front-line services.

This report was first published in French by The Canadian Press on May 1, 2022.