Registration with a family doctor: The Québec Ombudsman makes recommendations aimed at reducing wait times | Protecteur du Citoyen
May 15, 2018

Registration with a family doctor: The Québec Ombudsman makes recommendations aimed at reducing wait times

Québec City, May 15, 2018 – In an investigation report produced further to complaints and reports, the Québec Ombudsman describes certain flaws in the system established in 2016 by the Ministère de la Santé et des Services sociaux to promote access to a family doctor. These flaws mean, in particular, long wait times and prioritization of people that can be inadequate at times.

As Ombudsperson Marie Rinfret sees it, "the system’s shortcomings and limits may explain why the ministerial target of 85% of Quebecers being registered with a family doctor was not achieved by December 31, 2017 as planned."

On that date, the average registration rate for all regions was 78.3% but only 66% for the Montréal region.

Ranking applications by priority based on people’s clinical condition

Since 2016, one of the ways that people can register on the Québec Family Doctor Finder (GAMF) is by filling out a web form. The Québec Ombudsman is critical that the GAMF form does not include any questions about medication, the use of specialized services or monitoring of chronic diseases. Moreover, certain diagnoses are not indicated and information cannot be added to the form. The result is that people who register on it are not ranked as they should be.

Once they are registered, in theory, people are entitled to a clinical assessment. However, in certain regions, this assessment is impossible due to a shortage of nursing staff. This exacerbates problems of the ranking of applications by priority. 

Wait times between assignment and registration

When a person is assigned a family doctor, the process does not end there. The Québec Ombudsman has seen that some people have to wait several months before getting a first appointment. Meanwhile, they are no longer available to be assigned to another doctor who might be quicker to take charge of them.

Inequality among regions

Lastly, the Québec Ombudsman’s investigation showed that the geographical distribution among territories in assigning family doctors is not optimal. In fact, the registration rate is highly variable, ranging from 63.5% for Nord-de-l’île-de-Montréal to 91.3% for Chaudière-Appalaches.

The Québec Ombudsman made eight recommendations to the Ministère de la Santé et des Services sociaux aimed among other things at:

  • prioritizing GAMF registerees according to their state of health;
  • ensuring that people assigned a family doctor be re-entered on GAMF as at the date of their initial registration if they have not been registered with that doctor within 60 days;
  • allowing a family doctor for a given region to be assigned beyond certain geographical limits.

The Québec Ombudsman is an impartial and independent institution tasked to ensure that citizens’ rights are upheld in their dealings with public services. In the area of health and social services, it acts as a second level of recourse after users have contacted the service quality and complaints commissioner of the institution concerned. It acts at the first level in cases of reports or whistleblowing.

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