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Province’s GAP program without funding contract

June 5th,2024 | News

The 112,000 residents of the Outaoauis who don’t have a family doctor are now left with almost no chance of getting a medical appointment through the doctor-finding service known as GAP, thanks to a failure by the provincial government and the province’s main doctor’s union to reach a funding negotiation.

According to the Centre intégré de santé et des services sociaux de l’Outaouais (CISSSO), each week in May around 1,300 appointments were available at family medical group (GMF) centres in the Outaouais. But during the first week in June that number dropped to just 168 – meaning only 0.15 per cent of doctorless residents in the region could conceivably book a medical appointment through GAP. The majority of available appointments in June have already been filled, a spokesperson for CISSSO stated. 

The precipitous drop in the number of available appointments appears to be the result of a failure on the part of the CAQ government and the province’s main doctors union to reach an agreement for funding GAP.

As of June 1, the agreement between the Fédération des médecins omnipraticiens du Québec (FMOQ), a professional union representing all general practitioners in Quebec, and the provincial government came to an end. At the time of publication, a new agreement has so far not been reached. 

The original agreement, which was signed in 2022, offered an annual premium of $120 for each patient registered with a GMF through GAP.

In a statement to the Low Down on May 16, Minister Dubé said that GAP is “here to stay,” adding at the time that negotiations were ongoing but that the program was not in jeopardy. 

While negotiations continue, for the month of June at least, GAP patients will be hard-pressed to find an appointment with a physician as GMFs across the province have begun offering dramatically fewer appointments.  

Ministry of Health data shows that on May 18, 17,604 appointments were offered province-wide by doctors via GAP. 

The number of appointments being offered dropped to 5,699 for the week of June 1, and to 2,602 for the week of June 15.

For the nearly 10,000 patients in the MRC des Collines who don’t have a family doctor this could mean that seeing a physician – already a less-then-straightforward experience, according to some residents – will become even more difficult if not impossible. 

CBC has reported that slashing available appointments is a pressure tactic on the part of family doctors as part of the negotiations with the provincial government over GAP. 

Marcel Chartrand, a spokesperson for Vigi Santé, a healthcare watchdog, told the Low Down that he hopes this isn’t really the case. 

Chartrand said he believes that GMFs anticipated funding for GAP would end without a deal and decreased the number of appointments they made available, but he said he remains hopeful that if a patient were to call GAP they could still manage to find an appointment somewhere. 

He admitted that the system “is broken for the moment.” 

“The GAP did serve a purpose. If people can’t get appointments through GAP they will go somewhere else. Where is that somewhere else? Emergency rooms, which are already over-full…we have a lack of doctors here already, which doesn’t help the situation, but the GAP did help,” Chartrand asserted. 

He said he would implore the CAQ and FMOQ not to “leave people in the lurch for months.” 

He also decried the inaction of politicians, telling the Low Down, “they say they’re ‘keeping an eye on the situation,’ sure, but they’re not doing anything about it.” 

The Low Down has repeatedly requested an interview with Gatineau MNA Robert Bussiére. Our most recent request was not acknowledged by the publication’s deadline. 

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