A few years ago, the FMOQ assumed the very apt mandate to enhance the wonderful profession of family physician. Everyone followed closely behind the government, which made this a priority for the network. We must admit that it was a success and were it not for a lack of political courage on the part of the Charest government, almost all of the objectives that we had set would have been reached.
We are now on the road to implementation of the different measures negotiated. Going far beyond our wildest expectations, family physicians have agreed to take in close to 360,000 “orphaned” patients, (and this is to be done) in just one year. A true success, but we cannot stop there.
You must certainly have noticed that the newspapers are talking less and less about people who are looking for family physicians and more and more about access to a doctor or to one’s own family physician.
There is a significant difference here and it does as much damage to our profession as a million and a half citizens without family physicians.
Increasingly, patients are complaining that they cannot consult their own family physician or any other, even in walk-in clinics and in spite of the organizations that we have put in place (FMG and Network Clinics).
Moreover, the tone has gone up a notch among patients who are registered with a physician, but who can never see him/her within a reasonable length of time.
We understand that it is not easy when one is overwhelmed. This is a huge challenge that must be addressed.
The new Agreement with the government provided funding for training workshops on Advanced Access. This is a sophisticated means of offering our patients more appointment slots when they are scheduled or necessary. This is not simple. It requires a great deal of support, nurses and an unprecedented willingness to change to follow this formula. From all reports, it works and I encourage all those who are interested to register for these workshops.
It is, however, true that this formula is not within everyone’s reach. Nevertheless, everyone can develop simple means to offer their patients the possibility of reaching you easily and quickly for minor emergencies, without disturbing your routine or your remuneration and without turning your world upside down. I am thinking about slots of walk-in hours, at specific times that are known to the patients and available for emergencies. Some offices have these slots every day, whereas others offer a few hours at certain periods of the week. The important thing is to let your patients know the hours several months in advance. There are many solutions that can be applied easily and quickly. You have to be willing to try. No one is expected to do the impossible, but we should all be open to new approaches. It is clear that physicians will not lose in these changes and that the patients will come out winners.
Taking on new patients was the first step towards accessibility. The second step is to assume the needs of these patients. It is always easier to see our own patients in walk-in for an emergency than it is for one of our colleagues who has never seen these patients. We are aware of the limits of this approach and that is why walk-in clinics and network clinics exist. When we are in the office, however, this solution should not be the first.
We also have to admit that the mandates of these two bodies should be respected more rigourously.
The Federation is currently working to provide you with the means to increase your productivity through the addition of nurses and staff (promise repeated by the government), through computerization of offices (digital medical records effective since November 15), and through the application of the notion of “lui- meme” that it is getting ready to negotiate. Many other measures to improve your working conditions and your remuneration are already in place or will be shortly.
Our greatest weakness, I must repeat, comes from our lack of accessibility; pharmacists and nurses have understood this very well. There is no single solution! We must take this argument away from them. Let’s be creative, each in our own way and find practical and simple solutions, ones that make sense, to this burning problem.
Dr. Marc-André Asselin, President