MONTREAL — Quebec doctors take more vacations and work fewer hours than their counterparts in the rest of Canada, says a Toronto think-tank.
The C.D. Howe Institute says its findings partly explain the province's long ER waits and the thousands of Quebecers who don't have a family doctor.
Study author Claude E. Forget notes that Quebec actually has more doctors per 100,000 people than the Canadian average. However, 15% of Quebec patients surveyed don't have family physicians, compared with 4% of Ontarians.
"This relatively small number of hours doctors spend with their patients ... has a direct link with the fewer number of patients they serve," wrote Forget, a former Quebec cabinet minister.
"There are, on average, 1,081 patients per doctor in Quebec, 1,539 in Ontario and 1,468 across Canada."
He says Quebec doctors tend to work fewer hours whenever the government increases the amount that physicians can bill medicare for each patient.
"Gradually they're accustomed to working less, to have a lifestyle that appeals to them more," said Forget.
He suggests Quebec change its billing method so doctors bill for each patient.
"If family physicians were paid ... a predetermined lump sum for each patient in their care, they would be encouraged to sign up a larger number of patients," said Forget.
NUMBER OF WEEKLY WORKING HOURS BY PRIMARY-CARE DOCTORS, BY PROVINCE
AVERAGE NUMBER OF PATIENTS, PER DOCTOR
Source: C.D. Howe Institute
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