Lawyer to challenge regional medical workforce plans in Quebec

Montreal lawyer Julius Grey intends to challenge the system that allocates medical staff across Quebec.

He wants to ask a judge to suspend the new regional medical workforce plans (PREM) for 2022.

A physician who holds a permit to practice with the Collège des médecins du Québec is committed to spending at least 55% of his or her billing days, on an annual basis, in the region or territory where he or she holds his or her notice of compliance with the PREM.

Grey takes issue with Health Minister Christian Dubé's recent decision to send family physicians originally intended for the island of Montreal to surrounding areas.

According to him, the current system is unconstitutional. He plans to seek an interlocutory injunction next week to prevent the immediate implementation of the new PREM before the whole case is heard.

"I hope a judge will overturn these administrative changes and make the system inoperable," says Grey. "We can't give the government too much time, because the case is really urgent."

The lawyer argues that the system is arbitrary and unfair, adding that the lack of family doctors in some areas violates a person's right to security. He also points out that the PREM negatively impact people's right to mobility.

Mark Roper, a family physician who is also director of the primary care division in the Department of Family Medicine at McGill University, says that nearly 650,000 people do not have a family physician on the island of Montreal, far more than any other region in the province.

He argues that the Quebec government is underestimating the number of family doctors needed in Montreal, putting the health of the population at risk. He says the PREM is pushing doctors out of Quebec and preventing those who have left the province from returning.

"We should be an importer of family doctors, as we were before. Since the arrival of the PREMs, we have become an exporter," says Dr. Roper. "The reality is that the number of spots available on PREMs is about five per cent less than the number of graduates."

The Liberals have criticized Dubé for favouring Caquist regions at the expense of a region traditionally favoured by the Quebec Liberal Party.

Dubé denies being motivated by partisan reasons.

"I will be clear: every Quebecer must be treated the same. Whenever I have data that there are fewer doctors in some regions, I will make that kind of decision. People in the regions must be treated as fairly as those in Montreal or elsewhere."

--This report was first published in French by The Canadian Press on Oct. 8, 2021.

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