National survey of physicians - Accessibility still a major challenge

    MONTREAL, March 18 /CNW Telbec/ - The provincial results of the national
survey of physicians, made public today by the Canadian Medical Association,
show beyond any doubt that accessibility of medical services remains
problematic in Quebec.
    According to Dr Jean-Bernard Trudeau, President of the Québec Medical
Association, the problems concern access to family physicians, as well as
access to certain specialties, such as orthopedics and psychiatry. "Quebec
physicians have the perception that, in many cases, the situation has
deteriorated since the last survey in 2004."
    In fact, Quebec family physicians feel that the access their patients
have to psychiatrists (61%, compared to 58% in 2004) and orthopedists (61%,
compared to 48% in 2004) is fair to poor.
    Access to routine diagnostic services was deemed fair to poor by 21% of
Quebec physicians (15% in 2004). More than half of physicians in Quebec (53%)
found access to high-tech diagnostic services fair to poor.
    Access is a challenge for specialists who try to refer their patients to
primary care physicians. The percentage of other specialists who feel that
access is fair or poor was 64% in Quebec, compared to 47% in 2004.


    It is heartening to note that physicians (84%) derive great satisfaction
from relations with their patients.
    Close to 75% of physicians are satisfied with relations with their peers.
Physicians work more and more in collaboration under formal and informal
agreements in their practices. In fact, 93% of physicians who provide care in
collaborations are of the opinion that these working relations improve the
care their patients receive, and 92% believe that collaboration improves the
care they provide to their patients.
    Fewer than half of Quebec physicians (49%) are satisfied with their
relations with hospitals-one of the lowest satisfaction levels in the country.
It is conceivable that the recent restructurings in the health care system are
linked with this phenomenon.

    Impediments to patient care

    No fewer than 71% of specialists and 53% of general practitioners feel
that funding is the main impediment to health care. The two other most often
mentioned factors are bureaucracy (54% of general practitioners - 51% of
specialists) and staff availability (45% of general practitioners - 66% of
    "Clearly funding and the sustainability of the health care system are
major concerns among physicians," Dr. Trudeau notes. "The concern is
especially acute among specialists, whose practice in institutions often
depends on the availability of specialized staff, infrastructures, and

    Current and future changes to working hours

    "The survey results reveal that physicians, like most Quebecers, want a
better balance between their work and personal lives," Dr. Trudeau points out.
"In all likelihood this is why no fewer than 37% of general practitioners
(40% of specialists) say they would like to shorten their work week in the
next two years."
    The lack of relief services to cover family physicians in practice does
not help either. Nearly half of family physicians (47%) indicated they had not
used the services of a replacement physician last year because they were not
able to find one. "This is the highest level in Canada. It has serious
repercussions for work satisfaction and professional burnout."
    "In addition," Dr Trudeau went on to say, "Québec is the province with
the highest percentage of female physicians. As the recent study on the
feminization of the profession commissioned by the QMA demonstrates, early in
their careers, the number of hours worked by women is about 10% lower than for
men. Even though the gap tends to narrow in later years, it can have an impact
on the average hours worked for the profession as a whole."
    Lastly, 5% of physicians plan to take their retirement in the next
two years (4% of general practitioners, 6% of specialists).
    "Based on the findings of the survey," Dr Trudeau points out, "the
proportion of physicians planning to reduce the number of hours they work or
to take retirement suggests that problems of access to medical services will
continue to make themselves felt in the coming years."
    The elimination of quotas in medical faculties in 2003 will not yield
concrete results for a few more years. "In the meantime, we will have to be
innovative and creative in improving the organization of work, and learn to
work better in teams," Dr Trudeau concluded.

    The Québec Medical Association (QMA) is a non-unionized organization made
up of more than 9,000 general practitioners, specialists, residents and
medical students. Its mission is to mobilize and support Québec physicians in
order to guarantee quality health services for the Québec population.

For further information:

For further information: Robert Nadon, Director, Public and Professional
Affairs, (514) 866-0660, 1-800-363-3932,

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