Surge in Private Healthcare in Quebec

Surge in Private Healthcare in Quebec

Quebec has had a surplus of private clinics in recent years. The current estimate is that there are over 200 in the province compared to the known handful from 10 years ago. Despite this dramatic increase, nobody – not even the Ministry of Health – really takes this into account.

While it is difficult to accurately assess the progress of the phenomenon, due to the lack of a comprehensive list of the number of firms that refuse sun card (carte soleil). But one thing is certain: private medicine has reached unprecedented proportions.

Looking at the situation by compiling a list of all of the workplaces of all non-participating physicians to the Régie de l’assurance maladie du Québec (RAMQ) reveals a thriving industry. According to calculations, at least 190 clinics and private practices have been discreetly implemented in recent years – the majority being in the Montreal area, Quebec City area and Montérégie. It is also found private practices in the Outaouais, Laurentides, Lanaudière, Estrie, and Mauricie regions.

After aesthetics, family medicine

Contrary to popular belief, the private sector is no longer a matter of aesthetics, surgery, ophthalmology or specialized medicine. In recent years, a new class of family medicine clinics completely independent from the RAMQ competes with firms with public general practitioners.

In exchange for a hundreds of dollars one may receive: a follow-up with a family doctor, emergency appointments, telephone consultations, the access to a nurse and even sometimes the services of other professionals such as physiotherapists and nutritionists. All without waiting.

This is the case of the Privamed clinic in Boucherville. Opened in 2009 by two general practitioners, it now has a team of four doctors and two nurses and processes several thousand customers.

“At first we wanted to do general checkups and deal with emergencies, but we very quickly saw that patients wanted family doctor services. So we adapted our approach,” explained the administrator, Francis Nicloux.

To have a record at the clinic, patients pay $110 per year. An emergency around 15 minute costs $80, a visitation around 20 minutes would cost around $105 and a 30 minute check-up costs around $150. Clients have access to their medical records at all times via the Internet. “People appreciate the continuity of service, so they willingly spend here.”

Despite the costs, the clinic has had such a great start that it had to refuse 1,500 new customers last year. Since then, two doctors have joined the founders. By November, they will each have 2,000 patients. A second branch will open in Brossard in the coming months and will hire three doctors and two nurses, followed by the opening of a third location in Montreal in 2014. “We have already found all of our doctors for Brossard and one for Montreal. We are currently negotiating with others,” says Nicloux. He says he will have no difficulty recruiting.

The attraction of private

“Our doctors are trying to devote themselves entirely to family medicine, something they could not do for years in the public,” says the manager. “They are treated better in private care. They can work and have access to better technology,” says Jason Wright, the founder of the web portal SantéPrivée.ca, who made the promotion to the most private areas of the province.

According to the latest figures from the RAMQ, a record number of 262 physicians – including 186 general practitioners- have dropped the public plan, to operate their own clinic or to join that of a colleague without having to be accountable to the State. There were 60 10 years ago. In December, the former Director of Public Health of the Capitale-Nationale has made the leap to open the first private family medicine clinic in Rimouski.

All doctors cannot make this choice. The market will eventually become saturated.  Not everyone can afford to pay for treatment.

7700 Nurses in the private sector, which is 11% of the workforce in the province, according to a report from the College of Nurses of Quebec. If the majority are working in agencies, some may also opt for private clinics.

The Ministry of Health, says that they do not have a picture of the situation. “The Department does not keep records of private clinics, given that they are just private and the Department coordinates the public network. We do not follow what happens in the private sector and there is no assessment of the evolution of these clinics,” said a spokeswoman.
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LifeinQuebec.com Staff Writer

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