Legault threatens 'special law' to change how family doctors are paid

Quebec Premier François Legault wants a new deal for how family doctors are paid in the province — and is willing to force through special legislation to do it.

In an interview with Radio-Canada Friday, Legault said he wants to see general practitioners paid by the patient, as opposed to the current system, which pays doctors for every medical act performed, regardless of how many patients are seen.

"It doesn't make sense that family doctors, for example, work four or five days a week and leave patients abandoned in the emergency rooms of hospitals," he said.

During the 2018 provincial election, Legault's campaign promised to shorten wait times in emergency rooms by 90 minutes, something he said he can only be attained if family doctors are more accessible.

"Family doctor groups must become the heart of our healthcare system," he said. 

Legault wants to see more family doctor groups, where several doctors work out of one practice and take shifts, including on evenings and weekends, to ensure there's someone available in case of a walk-in.

"Then they see patients in their office, in their CLSC, or in their private practices — not in the emergency room."

Legault said he wants the changes to be implemented in early 2020.

Family doctor group 'surprised'

The head of Quebec's family doctors federation, Louis Godin, said that Legault's plan would be a "major change" to the way doctors are paid.

While his organization is open to negotiating a reform, he said he was surprised by the threat to force through the changes using a special law.

The federation is currently negotiating with the Quebec Treasury Board and it is "progressing well," Godin said.

"We are still confident that we will arrive at a new way to compensate doctors … so to come out with this threat of using a special law leaves us very, very perplexed."

As for patients being left without a doctor in the evenings and weekends, Godin pointed to what he calls a shortage of family doctors in the province, estimating that Quebec needs about 800 more family doctors to meet demand.