Disproportionate compensation gap between general practitioners and specialists

    BOUCHERVILLE, QC, May 28 /CNW Telbec/ - "Numbers don't lie: general
practitioners' compensation is not competitive. The ever-widening compensation
gap between general practitioners and medical specialists in Quebec is
becoming disproportionately lopsided and unjustifiable when one considers the
current crisis in family medicine." With these comments, Dr. Louis Godin,
President of the Fédération des médecins omnipraticiens du Québec (FMOQ), made
public the results of a comparative analysis based on Régie de l'assurance
maladie du Québec (RAMQ) data on physicians' compensation in Quebec. The
study, conducted by the FMOQ's Service des affaires économiques, demonstrates
clearly that the steadily increasing disparity, to the detriment of general
practitioners, not only set a record in 2007 but will continue to grow in the
future if nothing is done to remedy the situation.

    A gap of 55.7% in 2009

    The study of RAMQ data for 2007, the last year for which statistics were
available, produced some unequivocal findings. When one takes into account the
gross earning of active practitioners, excluding from the equation the 20% of
both general practitioners and specialists who bill the least, we observe a
gap in compensation levels of 52.5% on the basis of average annual earnings of
$193,413 and $294,957, respectively. Furthermore, projections for the current
year, 2009, reveal that the gap will continue to widen because the gross
earnings for active physicians is expected to average $230,161, while that for
active specialists should average $358,373, which constitutes a difference of
55.7%. By way of comparison, the difference in 1975 was 20.5%, when general
practitioners earned an average of $42,905 and specialists earned $51,698.
    Because they have more years of training, and depending on their field of
specialization, it is quite normal for specialized physicians to be better
compensated. However, the disparity that exists today has reached troubling
and unjustifiable proportions. It is therefore imperative that everyone agree
with the necessity to make general practitioners' compensation more
    "Access to front-line care being the basis of any effective health care
system, it is vital that the Government of Québec does everything it can to
make practicing family medicine and caring for patients more appealing. Sadly,
the prevailing conditions of uncompetitive levels of compensation for general
practitioners when compared to their specialist colleagues constitute a major
stumbling block in the development of front-line health care services. These
conditions may well discourage future physicians from choosing to practice
family medicine. Given today's severe shortage of general practitioners, this
situation could have disastrous consequences in the future. It is therefore in
all our interests to ensure this significant imbalance is remedied," continued
Dr. Godin.

    The needed promotion of family medicine

    One must recall that more than 180 positions for residencies in family
medicine remained vacant during the last three years in Quebec. That
represents a shortfall of 180 physicians who will neither be joining the ranks
of those currently practicing nor taking over from them when they retire to
ensure the delivery of the best possible health care services to the
population. While it is true that action must be taken to improve training and
the organization of the medical profession, as was proposed last fall in the
FMOQ's Statement of principles for a national family medicine policy, the
issue of compensation cannot be ignored if this loss of interest in front-line
medicine is to be countered effectively. With a compensation disparity for a
family doctor, when compared to that of a specialist, of more than 55%, when
calculated over the course of a 30-plus-year career, the appeal of going into
family medicine clearly takes a hit.
    Too many Quebecers do not have access to a family doctor. The Minister of
Health and Social Services describes the current situation as having reached
crisis levels. The government has created an issue table to examine the
problem. Various working groups will be meeting over the next months to
propose possible solutions to the questions of training and the organization
of the practice of medicine. General practitioners will be participating in
these sessions in good faith. At the outset, however, it seems clear that the
proposed solutions will in all likelihood have little effect if government
authorities refuse to take effective action on the question of compensation.
    "General practitioners have the well-being of their fellow citizens at
heart and simply want the complex nature and scope of their work to be valued
and rewarded. If the current government is serious about wanting to provide
access to a family doctor for every Quebecer who so desires, it cannot ignore
the need to make adjustments in the compensation rates for general
practitioners. This is the chance to remedy the situation and do things
differently in the coming months and years. Let's hope the government will
seize this opportunity, as the very future of our health care system depends
on it," concluded Dr. Godin.

    A professional union representing all general practitioners in Quebec,
the FMOQ has more than 8,000 members. Its mission is to defend the
professional and scientific interests of its members. To find out more about
the FMOQ, please visit its website at www.fmoq.org.

    /NOTE TO PHOTO EDITORS: A photo accompanying this release is available on
    the CNW Photo Network and archived at http://photos.newswire.ca.
    Additional archived images are also available on the CNW Photo Archive
    website at http://photos.newswire.ca. Images are free to accredited
    members of the media/

For further information:

For further information: On site May 28: Jean-Pierre Dion,
Communications Director, Cell: (514) 214-4941, jpdion@fmoq.org; Marie Ruel,
Communications Consultant, Cell: (514) 891-8285; Source: Fédération des
médecins omnipraticiens du Québec, (514) 878-1911, 1-800-361-8499

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